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Sunday, 25 September 2011

Who Will Turn Out For Great Britain Next Summer?

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With less than a year to go, speculation is mounting about who will appear for the Great Britain team at the London Olympics. Despite opposition from the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish FAs , some players have begun indicating they would like to be considered.

Football is an unusual sport in that the Olympics isn't the peak of the game - far from it. However, as the big event nears it will become harder to be indifferent to the tournament, particularly for the non-English players.

Wales have played in only one World Cup and N.Ireland just three and neither in the modern European finals; Scotland were last at the Euros in 1996 and the World Cup in 1998. Their players can't be certain they will ever make a tournament finals.

England's younger players  believe that they will play in the big events and may well have their eyes on Euro 2012 - and no doubt Arsene Wenger would have a fit at the thought of Jack Wilshere playing the Euros and Olympics back to back. Wilshire would be a shoe-in for Stuart Pearce's squad but will he be an option?

Wales could provide the core of the team midfield. Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale will surely be selected if available and there is a groundswell to invite Ryan Giggs as one of the three over-23 players allowed in the squad. The Man United man has never appeared at a global tournament - what a way this would be to bow out.

These three would be a dynamic midfield, possibly rounded out with Theo Walcott on the right. However, there is the strongest speculation that David Beckham will be invited, which might squeeze the Arsenal flier out.

A Beckham invite draws Giggs' role into question because it's difficult to see Stuart Pearce starting two players who are both well past 35 - but undoubtedly Giggs is playing at the higher level these days.

Everton's Jack Rodwell is unlikely to be in an England squad in Poland and Ukraine, so he could be an ideal candidate for a holding role in the middle of the park.

Looking to Scotland, Pearce might introduce Aston Villa midfielder Barry Bannan and assuming that he wants all four Home Nations represented, Craig Cathcart of Blackpool could get a place in the squad.

At the moment, a potential central defensive pairing appears to be forming at remarkable speed. Pearce could select Chris Smalling and Phil Jones of Manchester United, although whether Sir Alex would be in accord is another matter. Kyle Walker of Spurs qualifies for the right back slot and Danny Wilson of Liverpool is a candidate for left back.

Pearce can only take three over-23 players and the speculation is that he will take an experienced keeper - but he may also decide he needs nous up front and the name of Bobby Zamora comes to mind. If the Fulham man doesn't make the Euro 2012 squad (assuming England get there) he would surely be raring to go having been denied South Africa 2010 due to injury.

The goalkeeper slot is a problem as under-23 standout keepers are in short supply. Pearce will surely choose to take an experienced man like Scotland's Allan McGregor, accepting the limits on his outfield options.

Picking a side at this stage is a fraught exercise without knowing which England players will be allowed to play - plus it's uncertain how far the other Home Nations might go to influence their young players to turn down invites. And Pearce hasn't shown his hand yet in regard of his over-age selections.

Here is a possible eleven though:

Variations could have Cathcart in the back four or Walcott wide in a 4-5-1. If Wilshere is available he would surely be a starter. Bale could operate at left back, allowing Giggs a wider berth and Bannan to play centrally. Of course with Beckham involved, one of Giggs or Zamora would be out.

So that's how Hugh Larkin believes a Great Britain team could line up at the Olympics in 2012, but who would you like to see in the team? Would you pick Giggs over Beckham? How many Scots would get in the team? Do you think Pearce is the man to lead such a squad to victory? Could the above team actually win the tournament? Whatever your views, we'd love to hear from you.

Related Articles:

Who made it in to our Team of the Week (Sept 19)

The View From Outside the Premier League: Derby leading the East Midlands challenge

Is Wenger's reputation at Arsenal now under threat?

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