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Team GB v Senegal: Preview & match odds

The opening ceremony for the 2012 Olympic Games takes place on Friday, but the football competition begins before this spectacular extravaganza.

Team GB's women kicked off with a win on Wednesday and, after 52 years of Olympic exile, Stuart Pearce takes charge of his young Team GB unit in a competitive match for the first time.

They meet dangerous African opponents in Senegal at Old Trafford today (Thursday).

Neither side has any injury concerns in the build-up to this Group A match, with both hoping to make a positive start, especially as pool rivals Uruguay will be considered to be a leading light in the football tournament.

Brilliant Butland

Team GB’s 2-0 warm-up defeat to Brazil at the Riverside Stadium last week suggested that plenty of work is ahead for the squad, especially in comparison to the favourites.

There were some encouraging individual performances though, as the likes of Danny Rose and Neil Taylor improved as the game progressed.

The star however was 19-year-old goalkeeper Jack Butland.

Butland came on for Middlesbrough’s Jason Steele at half-time and produced a number of phenomenal stops in the second half to stop the scoreline looking completely one-sided.

Butland went to Euro 2012 with England as third choice goalkeeper and if he carries on the impressive form seen so far, Joe Hart will face some stiff competition in the Three Lions shirt, for years to come.

Daniel Sturridge has recovered from the viral meningitis scare that put his Olympic participation in doubt earlier in the month.

Lastly, Ryan Giggs will captain the side as he finally gets to play in a major international competition, after many narrow failures with his home country Wales.

Senegalese threats

Senegal have struggled to make a significant impact on the international stage since they shocked the world and reached the quarter-finals of World Cup 2002.

The days of Salif Diao, Henri Camara and Papa Bouba Diop have long since gone and their failure to escape their African Cup of Nations group in January, suggests that they don’t have a great deal of depth either.

The most recognised players are dynamite Newcastle duo, Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse but Alan Pardew managed to resist any potential call-up for the pair from head coach Joseph Koto.

Their most well-known player is Mohamed Diame. Diame will anchor the midfield and is a solid performer on a regular basis.

He has just made the switch from Wigan Athletic to West Ham United in the Premier League for next season.

Watch out for Ibrahima Balde too. The FC Kuban Krasnodar striker will lead the line and scored the crucial goal against Oman, to book Senegal’s place in these Olympics.

Everton’s Magaye Gueye might make a cameo appearance, whilst Dame N’Doye has a prolific goalscoring record for FC Copenhagen and has just transferred to Russian football with Lokomotiv Moscow.

Crowd pleasing start

The football tickets for the Olympic Games haven’t been selling very well but those who will be attending Old Trafford will be looking for a crowd pleasing start.

The Team GB outfit on a whole has a realistic target of medals to achieve on home soil and it will be great if the football team can deliver one too.

There is no doubt that Pearce’s job is still a work in progress mission and last week’s defeat to the breathtaking Brazilians does suggest that a lot of luck will be required to go all the way to the final.

Senegal have beaten Spain in warm-up matches but they did lose 3-0 to South Korea in Stevenage last week, so there will be pressure on the Team GB squad to show what the fuss of having this team is all about.

Nothing less than a home victory has to be expected and it will be the perfect start, to what many hope will be a magical Olympic Games.

Team GB v Senegal is live on BBC One & BBC One HD from 7pm on Thursday, kick-off at 8pm

By Simon Wright – Follow me on Twitter @Siwri88

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