x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

UAE discover the players they will face from Team GB

Ryan Giggs, Craig Bellamy and Micah Richards are joined by 15 players under 23, with all but three of the squad playing in the Premier League.

Stuart Pearce, Team GB Men's Football Coach, announced the squad. Jan Kruger/Getty Images
Stuart Pearce, Team GB Men's Football Coach, announced the squad. Jan Kruger/Getty Images

LONDON // The UAE now know the names of the Great Britain players who could line up against them when the two football sides collide in the London Olympics at Wembley Stadium on July 29.

Great Britain's first men's Olympic soccer team since 1960 includes Manchester United midfielder Ryan Giggs but is missing David Beckham.

The former England capital was absent from the list of 18 players announced today by the British Olympic Association.

That decision had been expected after Beckham said last week he had failed to make the cut. The 38-year-old Giggs, Craig Bellamy and Micah Richards were the three players over the age limit of 23 summoned by Stuart Pearce, the Team GB coach.

The UAE are in Group A, with Great Britain, Uruguay and Senegal, and the young Emiratis no doubt are looking forward to their July 29 match with the hosts at Wembley.

They certainly will recognise, among the Team GB squad, players such as Daniel Sturridge, the Chelsea forward; Tom Cleverley, the Manchester United midfielder; and Ryan Bertrand, the Chelsea defender.

The Great Britain squad includes 13 Englishmen and five Welshmen, with no players from Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Fifteen of the 18 players are in Premier League sides. The other three play for teams in the second-tier League Championship.

"It has not been an easy task to finalise my squad for this tournament, and the stature of the competition and uniqueness of the occasion has underlined the importance of every choice I have made," Pearce said in a statement.

"With just 18 places, it is very different from other international tournaments. The options are limited, but it is the Olympic Games and every player in this squad should be very proud they have a chance to compete for a gold medal on home soil."

Giggs is among the greatest Premier League players but has never played in a major tournament with Wales, making the Olympics likely to be his international swansong.

A winger-turned-central midfielder, Giggs has retired from the Wales national team. Wales's current best player is Gareth Bale but he ruled himself out of contention for the Olympics because of a back injury.

Britain has not fielded an Olympic team since the Rome Games 52 years ago because soccer federations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland feared a unified team could cause them to lose Independence within Fifa.

The world body assured the three federations that their status would not be affected by participating in the 16-team men's competition at the London Games.

"I have never looked at their individual nationalities, I see them as a British participant and I hope that will be the case throughout our Isles," Pearce said of his player choices.

"I can't even tell you, if I'm honest, how many players in this squad are from Wales or England. They are individuals that are Olympians now."

Team GB plays its opening match against Senegal at Old Trafford on July 26, faces the UAE three days later at Wembley and Uruguay on Aug. 1 at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

"I remember the huge advantage we gained from playing in front of our own fans during Euro 96," said Pearce, a former English national team defender, "and I'm sure with the nation behind us it could be a fantastic tournament for us."

The squad:

Goalkeepers: Jack Butland (England; Birmingham), Jason Steele (England; Middlesbrough)

Defenders: Ryan Bertrand (England; Chelsea), Steven Caulker (England; Swansea), Craig Dawson (England; West Bromwich Albion), Micah Richards (England; Manchester City), Danny Rose (England; Tottenham), Neil Taylor (Wales; Swansea), James Tomkins (England; West Ham)

Midfielders: Joe Allen (Wales; Swansea), Tom Cleverley (England; Manchester United), Jack Cork (England; Southampton), Ryan Giggs (Wales; Manchester United), Aaron Ramsey (Wales; Arsenal), Scott Sinclair (England; Swansea)

Forwards: Craig Bellamy (Wales; Liverpool), Marvin Sordell (England; Bolton), Daniel Sturridge (England; Chelsea)"