Football: Britain reach last eight as love-affair goes on

CARDIFF (Reuters) - Britain's new-found love affair with Olympic soccer continued to blossom on Wednesday when they beat Uruguay 1-0 to clinch a place in the quarter-finals of the competition for the first time since the 1956 Melbourne Games.

Daniel Sturridge's goal on the stroke of halftime was enough to give Britain, back in the tournament for the first time since 1960, top spot in Group A and a quarter-final against South Korea back at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium on Saturday.

He slid the ball home from close range after good approach work from Joe Allon and, although they came close to scoring several times, Uruguay, who last competed in the Olympics when they won their second gold in 1928, could find no response.

Their nearest effort came when Gaston Ramirez smashed the ball against the bar with a long range shot in the fifth minute of stoppage time.

Britain finished top with seven points ahead of Senegal, on five after their 1-1 draw with United Arab Emirates in Coventry.

Uruguay finished third with three points and were eliminated along with the UAE who picked up just one point.

Britain has not competed in the Olympic football tournament for 52 years, mainly for political reasons involving the independent status of Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland within world governing body FIFA.

Their FAs have long opposed British involvement but sort of gesturing was not reflected in the passion shown by a crowd of 70,438 who became more vocal as the night wore on and cheered "Team GB" at the end as if they were screaming on Wales themselves.


Fears that the national anthem would be booed by the Welsh crowd came to nothing with a stirring rendition but the crowd were hugely disappointed before kickoff when the team was announced and Britain's skipper, Cardiff-born Ryan Giggs was not in it.

The former Wales international, who on Sunday at the age of 38 years and 243 days became the oldest man ever to play in the Olympic football tournament, was on the bench nursing a hamstring injury, but in his place another Welsh veteran and over-age player Craig Bellamy took the armband.

Britain, fielding four Welshmen in their starting lineup, settled first, with one of that quartet, Aaron Ramsey showing the way with a superb performance in central midfield that tipped most of the play Britain's way.

Uruguay, though, threatened throughout and were dangerous in the closing stages.

Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, who were expected to be among the goals for Uruguay throughout the competition, had another frustrating night with both high profile club players frustrated by the impressive young British keeper Jack Butland.

The pair did not score a goal in three matches.

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