Paul Parker

Team GB’s Olympic football venture a success

Paul Parker

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There was something so painfully predictable about GB's men's football team losing their Olympic quarter-final to South Korea on penalties.

The fact that the footballers were knocked out on a day in which the likes of Jessica Ennis and Mo Farah thrilled the nation by winning gold medals seemed to fit with the sport's true standing in the Games for most British fans — something of an afterthought that comes well below the 'proper' Olympic sports.

Ultimately, after the performances they put in throughout the tournament, Stuart Pearce's side finished about where they deserved.

One day, someone will get to the bottom of why we have such a mental block when it comes to shootouts - and although I'm sure any Welshman would be quick to point out that it was an England player whose miss cost the team their place in the tournament,  until we do penalties will continue to strike fear into the heart of every British fan.

At least now Ryan Giggs knows what he has been missing out on after all those years without competing in an international competition. He almost went his entire career without feeling that unique pain of going out of an international tournament via the lottery from 12 yards. Welcome to the club, Ryan.

Although Giggs did not start either of the team's final two matches in the tournament, I am sure he will have enjoyed himself on the whole, while the young players he captained will also have found playing alongside such a legendary player an inspiring experience.

In spite of that disappointing exit on Britain's greatest Olympic day, the football 'experiment' can be considered a success. Many didn't expect Team GB to get out of their group, and several young players gained plenty of valuable international experience in playing in front of huge crowds with plenty of expectation. All of the matches involving both the men's and women's teams were well attended.

While Britain may have failed to bring home a medal in its most popular sport, their presence in the football tournament and the support they received sent out a great message to the watching world of how well the hosts have embraced all aspects of these Olympics.

For all the talk before the tournament about how Pearce's non-selection of David Beckham was a PR disaster, the hosts have come off looking very good indeed.

It is a shame that Team GB's presence at the Olympics is almost certainly a one-off and that they will not compete for a place in Rio de Janeiro in four years' time. Having an Under-23 side offers a unique chance for players destined for the senior side to play extra tournament football.

Of course, their clubs might not see it that way. They will just be relieved that everyone has returned to their employers free from injury. It remains to be seen how many players go straight back into action from the beginning of the season and how many are given time off to recover.

It would be great to see some of those young players kick on and have good seasons in the Premier League now. Perhaps in a few years we will look back on the Olympic campaign as the start of something good for both English and Welsh football.

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