With the announcement of Pearce's Olympic team came a lot of outrage in the exclusion of David Beckham. I however was a member of the few who opposed his selection for Team GB. Although I disagree that football should even be an Olympic sport, I viewed that a semi-retired professional footballer shouldn't be offered a sporting Olympic role upon the grounds of having 'worked hard' or to some degree being 'responsible for the Games' being given to London. Regardless, the decision has been made and Pearce's squad chosen.
Pearce's choice, much like mine was defended upon the grounds of "footballing reasons" (the new 2012 footballing cliché). Pearce thanked Beckham for his great work that helped secure Olympics for London, but defended his position that his team would be built around the best players he had available to him.
Either way the team has been chosen and Beckham has flown back to L.A to perfect his acting career of a soccer player in a highly competitive league. It leaves the rest of us to ponder what to expect in the football at these Olympic games? Are those 400,000 empty seats at Hampden Park going to be rued by the people of Glasgow? Or like the cabaret of the Krankies, will they have been wise to the limited performances on show?
A general comparison of teams doesn't seem to be readily available. Perhaps the Opta stats people don't do mickey-mouse football tournaments, or maybe ITV haven't finished their research to supply Jon Champion with useless information... Either way, I've scoured the internet to put some stats together. England comparisons (and by extension Team GB) are always made with the best in the world, so for the sake of simplicity I've pooled the stats for Team GB, Brazil and Spain. What you take from them is up to you.
This table shows the number of senior appearances and experience each squad has. When including all 18 players, it is apparent that Team GB leads the way in senior appearances with around 2,500 games played; 500 more than Spain and almost 1000 more than Brazil. First blood to the British?
Again, in International Caps Britain wins hands down with around 180 to Spain's miserable 40.
To win any tournament a team must be able to score goals. And in yet another category Team GB appears to outscore both Brazil and Spain. Spain's 8 international goals are greatly overshadowed by both Brazil's 29 and Team GB's 37. Time to give up? It surely doesn't matter, one trophy is enough for one summer?
Those who've given the stats any time will see how such claims are as accurate as our hopes of winning (I use "we" and "our" guardedly considering the exclusion of any Scottish players). Although Team GB's overall international caps, goals and senior appearances far outweigh the rest, it's almost entirely down to Ryan Giggs' inclusion. The addition of Craig Bellamy as well distorts the graphs further. Regardless, though the stats may highlight senior and international experience, they aren't an indicator of current ability. Can you really say that Ryan Giggs' 12 international goals make him a more formidable attacker than Neymar with his 9 or Hulk with his 3?
The Giggs and Bellamy stats equivalent is buying Messi, Ronaldo and Iniesta for your fantasy team and filling the rest with East Fife reserves. The experience of just a few warps the stats for the rest. Having 650 senior league appearances might be great on the left wing but soon becomes an issue when your arrangement only allows for a ball boy in goal.
A fairer comparison might be with the average appearances for clubs in their respective leagues.
Now we see a more even comparison. Spain's average of 26 league games last season is almost exactly the same as Team GB's, and only slightly higher than Brazil's 20 (of which only includes Brazil Serie A and not State League games making the lower figure distinctly lower than it would be otherwise).
So what do these stats tell us? Well, absolutely nothing. Anecdotal and recent performances must matter more. Spain has 6 players with international caps, Team GB has 7 (5 are Welsh) and Brazil enjoys a slightly more remarkable 17 (only 1 player is not a full international).
The Brazils and Spains of this world have an embarrassment of riches that stats simply cannot do justice. Spain for one, are current u21 European champions, quarter-finalists in three of the last four u20 Euro championships and 5x winners in the last ten years at u19 level. Britain on the other hand? A 2009 u19 final with England and u17 Euro champions in 2009 (of which only Jack Butland has made the Olympic squad). Sadly Britain's youngsters have little experience of international glory, and indeed if this squad is anything to go by, even England's youth (asides Daniel Sturridge) have no full international experience whatsoever.
So why the great gap in talent and experience? One could make the argument that no England player at Euro 2012 being able to be chosen for the Olympics makes a sizeable challenge to selection. Nevertheless, who from that squad would get the British public excited for the Olympics? Daniel Welbeck? Andy Carroll? A man who's ball control ability often appears akin to that of a set of ladders wrapped in golf clubs. Somewhat unlikely.
Ironically, Pearce's admission that this squad was picked on footballing merit may have been his greatest mistake. Choosing one 37-year old and semi-retired David Beckham would have both given the Great British public something to be excited about and shown exactly what this squad is, short of experience, short of talent and in a tournament no one really wants to win.
The loss of Bale was a blow as was the failure to include the likes of Jordan Rhodes or perhaps even James Forrest. Either way the perpetual calls for 'give youth a chance' may actually be seen for once. Belief may be in a copious supply, but let's hope for the good of all that it remains with the real Olympians.
This year with the Queen's 60 years of waving, Murray's certain Wimbledon demise and Chelsea's stumble into European glory, it has become a year of Great British expectancy. Where there is talent in abundance in Team GB, it's not within Pearce's XVIII. This summer let's leave the glory to the real athletes, Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis and Chris Hoy. For to leave our hopes with this 3rd rate team, is sure to bring that most expected of British gifts; disappointment.