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Olympic doubts? Where can Team GB improve?

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The so-called Olympic spirit may have taken a blow even before London 2012 has begun with Stuart Pearce’s Team GB outfit comfortably beaten 2-0 in a friendly with Brazil at Middlesbrough on Friday evening.

Sceptics are out in force, claiming it was men against boys, there was no cohesion and that one David Beckham should have been involved, but we mustn’t forget that Brazil’s squad was close to full strength and likely to be the one that competes from now until the World Cup in 2014 which will be hosted in their very own back yard.

Without making it sound like an excuse, Team GB haven’t had a great deal of time training together and it is a relatively unfamiliar and ground-breaking ideal in this country having the likes of trailblazing youngsters such as Daniel Sturridge and Joe Allen playing alongside wily old competitors such as Ryan Giggs (pictured).

Of course, perfection takes time but Total Football’s Taylor Williams will assess performances during the friendly and analyse how Team GB can improve initially in the short period of time that will prove vital in implementing the ingredients required for preliminary round qualification.

Goalkeepers

Expected deputy to Jack Butland during the games Jason Steele started in the friendly against Brazil due to likely sentimental value given the 21-year-old originates from nearby Newton Aycliffe, and whilst the Middlesbrough stopper went the right way against Neymar’s penalty in the 35th minute, the Brazilian’s spot kick was far too quick for him.

Replacing Steele at half time, the much coveted Jack Butland showed glimpses of what all the fuss is all about, with his most impressive moment coming in the 89th minute whereby he denied Neymar with an excellent one handed effort, as he had to change his body shape rapidly. This impressive cameo is likely to get him the nod as number one.

Defence

There wasn’t much room for post-game optimism in the defence with a few personal performances leaving a lot to be desired.

West Ham United’s James Tomkins was particularly at fault for Sandro’s 12th minute opener as he misjudged a Hulk free kick and was far too slow in dropping back to stem the threat of Sandro’s resulting goal bound header.

Aside from this, Micah Richards also had an underwhelming performance given his leadership qualities in being selected as one of three over age squad members.

With Pearce selecting the 24-year-old at centre back, the natural right back’s game suffered as his most impressive games came at right full back last term where he could bomb on and cause opposition wingers a headache.

Richards tended to float out to this side, leaving gaps in the defence between himself and centre back partner Tomkins and Neymar had a clear one-on-one strike which he should have done better with early on.

Pearce would probably benefit from playing Richards at full back, and seeing whether a natural centre back in Craig Dawson or Steven Caulker could do the job more efficiently.

Richards worst moment came as Hulk outran the Manchester City man in a penalty box foot race, which resulted in Richards tugging the Porto man down with Neymar coolly slotting the penalty thereafter.

Midfield

Spain have taught us in recent years that possession is everything and without taking too much respect away from Brazil who practiced this game plan expertly, there was too much admiration from Team GB’s midfield ranks.

Joe Allen and Tom Cleverley who are used to having the ball at Swansea and Manchester United respectively didn’t have much of a look in and their influence as deep and intermediate lying playmakers was miniscule as the pair looked lost amidst the brute force of Sandro and the skill and creativity of Oscar and Romulo, who dominated and gave the young Team GB pairing something of a masterful lesson.

Elsewhere, Danny Rose had something of a poor showing on the left wing in the first half, yet he must be commended on his second half showing at left full back where he looked much more comfortable, assured, and gave the ball away far less – something for Pearce to consider.

Scott Sinclair looked more of a direct threat as he replaced Ryan Bertrand on 49 minutes and the Swansea man’s pace could be cashed in upon going forward.

Ryan Giggs did the small things correct such as slowing the play down and retaining possession when he could, but even he couldn’t wield his excellence as there were few opportunities of sustained Team GB possession and penetration of the Brazil back line.

Team GB will have to be much more adventurous in their counter attacks from midfield and enjoy more fruitful periods of possession with confidence seething through a side with early, assured touches of the ball.

Forwards

Daniel Sturridge looked the liveliest Team GB player in the opening exchanges and he often naturally floated the right hand side causing Marcelo a few difficulties on the touchline but his final third productivity must improve.

With Sturridge used to playing right wing and Craig Bellamy used to playing left wing there was often a gaping hole in the centre forwards position with no such target man or outlet for the midfield to aim towards.

If Pearce maintains this 4-4-2 shape, Sturridge and Bellamy will have to drop a lot deeper to pick up short passes from the likes of Giggs, Allen, Cleverley or Ramsey.

Marvin Sordell is the only other forward in the squad and he could have registered a strike on target in the latter stages, hadn’t it been for the Bolton Wanderers man taking too long executing a shot when he could have.

Going forward

The overriding notion was that Team GB indeed looked like a side alien to each other and whilst this may be the case superficially, Pearce will need to instil a collective spirit and a co-operative shape when going forward and dropping in to defend.

Uruguay whose style will pay dividends to that of Brazil perhaps pose Team GB a similar threat in Group A but the games against Senegal and United Arab Emirates are likely to prove easier rides.

With Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani selected in Oscar Tabarez’ side, it is easy to envisage this creative fulcrum causing the likes of Tomkins and Richards further troubles, but the midfield will have to make sure they provide a defensive shield, stemming the threat of potential assists from the likes of creative forces such as Gaston Ramirez.

Senegal and United Arab Emirates are more of an unknown quantity, but complacency will have to be guarded against with the latter already having competed in 17 games to get to the games, so they cannot be underestimated.

Stuart Pearce's Team GB will play against Senegal (July 26) at Old Trafford, United Arab Emirates (July 29) at Wembley and Uruguay (August 1) at the Millennium Stadium in the preliminary rounds at London 2012.

By Taylor Williams - Follow me on Twitter @Taylor_Will1989 - Visit my blog - thetrickywinger.blogspot.com

Follow Total Football on Twitter: @TotalFootball12

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