This is territory that fans of England are used to in their long suffering adoration of the country’s football team, a quarter-final place and no more but for Team GB this is exciting and interesting times.
Their opponents, South Korea, had dominated at the home of cricket for the best part of the last week and the question was would they also dominate Team GB to go on to play the might of the Brazilians in the semi-final?
Great Britain has grown though each and every game they have played, the routine and the structure has seen them improve vastly since the friendly match against Brazil in Middlesbrough. Coming through the group stages relatively unscathed except for the game against Senegal has seen the team reach the last eight, if not in style and flair then in the mould of the man charged with bringing gold to the awaiting nation, determination and sheer force of will.
The crowd that had made their way had to wait though the best part of 15 minutes before either side made an opening salvo on goal and it took a fine save by Jack Butland to force the ball out for a corner for the Koreans. The opening 20 minutes of the game saw South Korea start to do to the GB side that happened in the archery. All that was missing was the one shot on target. They were helped in their optimism by an opposition finding it hard to keep possession of the ball.
The home supporters in Wales didn’t have a lot to cheer about until on 23 minutes Bertrand had a shot which sailed well over the bar. From that the Koreans didn’t waste time in taking advantage of the poor display by Great Britain by scoring with a fantastic goal to send the South Koreans into dreamland. This could have game over; it should have been the end of the tournament for the hosts but somewhere and from out of nothing Great Britain got a penalty, a lifeline of monumental importance. From the resulting kick, Aaron Ramsey tucked it underneath Jung to give the perfect response straight after going behind.
Somewhere from deep in the memory of the young footballers out on the field the image of Gary Lineker scoring twice in the matter of minutes against Cameroon during the World Cup must have reared its head. Whatever was going through the heads of Great Britain’s footballers from the moment they equalised, it must have been a darn sight better than what went through the Koreans as they flapped and panicked at the sight of another British attack which resulted in yet another penalty kick. Rapture soon turned sour as this time the Korean keeper guessed right to keep the score level till the end of the first half.
The crowd inside the stadium may have been forgiven for wondering about other British hopes 160 miles away in London. By the time the second half started, the Heptathlon was nearly ready to start and with it a chance for Jessica Ennis to attain gold. Question was would that thought inspire the GB team to go for glory and make them stutter as they had done for pretty much of the opening 45 minutes.
What has been evident is that Manchester City’s Micah Richards must be really wondering what he has done wrong to not be included in the England Team for the last two major tournaments. His surging runs on the right frighten defences and he is no slacker in defence either. The high standards he has set as part of the league winning side last season should really see him used more for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers.
The second half started pretty much as the first had ended except for the removal of the aforementioned Richards being taking off after a rather heavy challenge between him and the Korean goalkeeper. Other than the second half was a story of missed opportunities, misguided fouls and reckless challenges. Great Britain’s players certainly looked tired and it was perhaps with relief that the older legs and football brain of Manchester United’s Ryan Giggs came on to bolster up the team and urge them for one last final effort to face Brazil in the semi-finals.
Perhaps it was written that the game would go to extra time, nothing really suggested itself otherwise to rectify that. An early chance came when Daniel Sturridge showed some of the form that marked him out as one of Chelsea’s players of the last season with a stunning break down the left hand side, twist his marker and lay on a perfect ball only to find no-one had managed to get their toe on the ball and give Great Britain the lead.
The longer the game went on, the spectre of penalties would look more and more or rearing its ugly head, chance after chance still went begging and it seemed as if neither side really wanted to progress beyond the last eight. The seconds ticked by, cramp started to be felt and the fitness levels of the British players called into question once again.
With two minutes left on the clock, the South Koreans gave a silly free kick away that gave hope that penalties could be avoided but despite the glimmer of hope it was to no avail as the kick looked lazy and tired.
Was this to be the only blot on an otherwise perfect day for Great Britain at the Games; Jessica Ennis had already achieved her dream, producing perhaps the biggest roar of the night in Cardiff, could Aaron Ramsey make up for his miss in the first half and put G.B ahead. It should never be in any doubt as he smashed the ball home. South Korea matched this to level the score at 1-1. Manchester United’s Cleverly once more put the Brits ahead with the Koreans once more levelling. Dawson and Hwang each scored to make it three each. Welsh hero Ryan Giggs made it four out of four for Great Britain and yet again the Korean’s equalised. The final penalty of the regulation five was taken by Daniel Sturridge and as he run up it was possible to see him stutter and become nervous and it was to be an easy save for the Korean goalkeeper.
The final penalty saw Jack Butland beaten to confirm that Britain would be taking no more part in the competition. The British people may never see this again as this was a one-time only participation and in retrospect it was worthwhile but in the end Great Britain suffered at the hands of penalties, indecision and lack of time together.
Great Britain: Butland, Taylor, Bertrand, Caulker, Cleverly, Allen, Sturridge, Bellamy, Richards, Ramsey, Sinclair.
Subs used: Dawson, Giggs, Rose,
South Korea: Jung, Yun, Kim, Ki, Ji, Park, Nam, Hwang, Koo, Kim, Park.
Subs used: Ch, Lee,
Final Score: Great Britain1-1. South Korea . South Korea won on penalties 5-4.
Goal Scorers: Great Britain, Ramsey . South Korea, Ji.
Ian D. Hall