Olympics football: Stuart Pearce backs Uruguay to progress

By Paul FletcherBBC Sport at Wembley
Highlights: Great Britain 3-1 UAE

Great Britain coach Stuart Pearce believes Uruguay remain favourites to progress from Group A despite the South Americans losing to Senegal on Sunday.

GB beat UAE 3-1 at Wembley to ensure that a draw against Uruguay in Cardiff on Wednesday will secure qualification at the expense of the Uruguayans.

But Pearce said: "I think Uruguay are still favourites in our group.

"It is an instant knockout situation, there is all to play for and that makes it even more exciting."

GB and Senegal both have four points, while Uruguay have three following their shock 2-0 defeat by the African side.

Senegal play pointless UAE on Wednesday and Pearce hinted that he believes the Lions of Teranga will pick up the result they need to seal their passage into the last eight.

"Senegal have been absolutely outstanding and they might think they have, on paper, the easiest game," added Pearce.

"They are looking a really strong team."

Senegal played for an hour with 10 men against Uruguay but a brace from the in-form Moussa Konate helped them seal a famous victory.

And they received a fully deserved round of applause from the supporters as they left the pitch after a thrilling match during which they created plenty of chances.

In contrast, there were periods in the second half of GB's game when their hopes of progressing through to the last eight looked in serious danger.

Skipper Ryan Giggs had put his team ahead with a first-half header but Rashid Eisa equalised after the break and the UAE seemed to be the side with momentum.

It took an excellent save from Jack Butland to prevent UAE taking the lead and afterwards their coach Mahdi Redha concluded: "There was not a big difference between the two teams."

Pearce showed a strong sense of understatement when he said that for "10 or 15 minutes we were on the back foot a touch" but Scott Sinclair struck within a minute of coming off the bench before half-time substitute Daniel Sturridge sealed the win with a deft chip from the edge of the box.

It was a moment of class from the Chelsea forward as GB won their first game since the 1960 Olympic Games and his finish completely changed the atmosphere among the crowd of 85,137.

The huge turnout in the capital followed on from the 72,176 at Old Trafford for the 1-1 draw against Senegal and Pearce was rightly keen to thank the supporters for the role they had played, describing them as "outstanding".

But his side will have to significantly improve if they are to progress towards the latter stages of the tournament and the final scoreline against the UAE should not paper over the cracks of another disjointed performance.

Pearce tried his third different central defensive combination in as many games after the friendly against Brazil and Group A opener against Senegal.

On Sunday, James Tomkins started alongside Steven Caulker but the West Ham defender allowed Rashed Eisa to glide past him far too easily in the build up to the UAE's goal.

Marvin Sordell made his first start in attack but the Bolton forward was a largely peripheral figure, while the general lack of cutting edge and the way that GB allowed UAE to prise their way back into the contest was a concern.

On the plus side, Butland continues to impress in goal, while Craig Bellamy and Aaron Ramsey both had a strong influence on the game playing either side of Giggs in a line of three behind Sordell.

Swansea's Joe Allen and Manchester United's Tom Cleverley looked capable of influencing the game from deep positions, as the latter demonstrated with his precise pass for Sturridge to score.

And Allen, strongly linked with a move to Liverpool, is backing the team to show the levels of improvement necessary to pick up a positive result against Uruguay.

"We know that Uruguay have world class players in their side and we will have to be on top of our game," said Allen.

"But you could see that the performance against the UAE was a step above from the Senegal game and we are confident that with that win under our belts we will be flying against Uruguay."

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