Team GB went into last night's final group game, knowing that a draw would be enough to see them safely into the quarter-finals but they got more than that against one of the pre-tournament favorites, Uruguay at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.
Ryan Giggs was left out of the side with a slight injury reported, much to the disappointment of the Welsh crowd and it was Scott Sinclair, who scored with his first touch against Senegal, who took his place with Craig Bellamy taking the armband.
The British National Anthem did not receive the poor reception which was predicted by many but something which was correctly predicted was the boos that were ringing out for Liverpool's Luis Suarez - he was treated to a chorus of them throughout the night at every opportunity.
The home side started well and dominated the first 10 minutes with Bellamy seeing a lot of the ball on the right-hand side early on and it was Bellamy who created the first possible chance of the game after a great ball froward from Neil Taylor, with a cross that found Sinclair at the back post but the Swansea man was unable to direct his header goal-wards. Bellamy, who was hugging the touchline, cut inside and had an effort himself with a shot from outside the Uruguay penalty area, although it brought the first gasp from the crowd, it was easily saved by Martin Campana and would of took something special from that distance.
With GB's early pressing, it was clear that they were not set out to play for the draw that was needed and came close to taking the lead after two corners in quick succession from Aaron Ramsey both led to goalmouth scrambles.
The fist booking of the game was for full-back, Taylor after a challenge on Tabare Viudez that looked much worse than it was. From the resulting free-kick, Sebastian Coates was given a free-header but could only head over the bar - now, why neither GB centre-backs Micah Richards or Steven Caulker decided to pick up the 6ft 6 Liverpool defender is a question coach Stuart Pearce was sure to have asked them at half-time.
Half way through the first half, Uruguay started to see more of the ball and Gaston Ramirez, who has been linked with a number of Premier League clubs, blazed a shot from 25 yards over the bar - this came after Ramsey was caught in possession when he simply should of passed the ball much earlier. A minute later though, Ramsey nearly made up from his mistake after being played in by a cleaver ball from Bellamy. The Arsenal midfielder shot wide and although he wanted a corner, it was not given.
Bellamy was again involved another minute later when he was fouled by Uruguay's Egidio Arevalo - this was the only way the South Americans were able to stop the Welshman. The free-kick was taken by Tom Cleverley and played to Taylor who drove wide from distance.
Then it was Uruguay's turn to get forward and Richards done extremely well to block a Suarez effort, a block which enabled Jack Butland to make the save. The big Manchester City defender gave Pearce a small moment of worry as he caught his trailing leg underneath him in the turf but he shook off the pain and was OK to go on.
Daniel Sturridge was then on the deck after he was caught by Diego Rodriguez - Rodriguez showing why his nickname is "The Bull". Ramsey whipped in a free-kick towards Richards but Campana was able to beat him to it and punch clear.
Uruguay, coached by Oscar Tabarez who is enjoying his second spell in charge of his country, were rarely threatening Team GB. Edinson Cavani, who has been in a word, poor at these Olympics, did win a corner however and even though this time, both Richards and Caulker marked Coates, he was still able to beat them both to the ball and head it at Joe Allen; cue the hand-ball shouts but no penalty waas given - even Suarez who had no view at all of the incident, appealed but replayes showed it was in fact Allen's chest.
Then moments after attempting to curl a shot past Campana which was never going to trouble him and on the stroke of half-time, Sturridge beat the offside trap to poke GB ahead from close-range. This was after some fantastic work from Swansea pair Sinclair and Allen on the left - a perfect time to score.
The second-half started with an unclean Micah Richards back-pass causing keeper Butland all sorts of problems as he sliced the ball out for a throw. Richards though, was dominating in the air and it was in vain that the Uruguayans continued to play long balls up to their captain, Suarez.
At the other end, Bellamy was carrying on from where he left of in the first-half by putting crosses into the box and was fouled, again. by club team-mate Coates who was given a yellow card in return.
Aaron Ramsey was looking good and after yet more good work from Joe Allen, he shot from outside the box - at this point, Team GB had 70% of the possession, an amazing stat. The British in their previous games however, had shown that they have a tendency to switch off and Suarez stole the ball from Caulker before Butland, who has had a great tournament, came to the rescue and denied the Liverpool striker with another top save before Caulker could then eventually clear.
Alexis Rolin looked to be the first man to keep up with Bellamy, going toe to toe with him before conceding a corner with a block-tackle. Daniel Sturridge showed a great burst of pace into the box before Campana came out to prevent the Chelsea man from doubling his side's lead.
Team GB were dominating the play and keeping the ball so well. Neil Taylor, who will be attracting a host of top clubs has been defending well on his "weaker side" all tournament and was playing some unbelievable passes out from the back. He played a great ball up to Bellamy again who won a corner which was played short to Ramsey who in turn crossed to Richards who was close to getting on the end of it - another dangerous cross to the back-post.
Butland was again to the rescue after Suarez was played through, making a great save before Cavani could only hit the rebound into the side-netting. Uruguay were getting stronger and with 20 minutes to go, they were on top - Suarez was starteing to get frustrated as he was trying 10 times harder than any of his team-mates and was then pulled up for two handballs (the second of which, he was booked for) and caught offside.
With just under 15 minutes remaining, Bellamy received his third standing ovation in a week as he was replaced by Tottenham's Danny Rose. Then Cavani, for the first time this tournament, showed an injection of pace as he ran over to Bellamy to push him off the pitch as he thought he was taking far too long to put the captain's armband on for Micah Richards. As you can imagine, Bellamy took this extremely well....
Uruguay knew they needed to score soon if they were going to have any chance of making the last eight and continued to press. Stuart Pearce's men, who were starting to look tired caught them on the break and Sturridge took the ball from deep before bending a shot towards the far-post where Campana was just able to push his effort around the post.
Jack Cork then replaced Scott Sinclair in injury time and again the subbed player was helped off the pitch - this time Matias Aguirregaray had the honour. Uruguay only had themselves to blame for being in the position they were in; they had waited until the closing stages of their final game to start playing at this tournament and even then, nowhere near as well as would hve been expected.
Ramirez then came within inches of equalising as his 20 yard effort cannoned against the GB bar. Craig Dawson then replaced scorer Sturridge in the final minute of added time, just as Uruguay were lining up a free-kick. Suarez took the free-kick and it was acrobatically caught by Butland, a catch which was proceeded by the final-whistle.
Senegal's 1-1 draw with UAE means Team GB go through to the Quarter Finals as Group A winners and will face South Korea on Saturday back in Cardiff, giving Ryan Giggs a second chance to please the Welsh fans but he get back into Stuart Pearce's squad?
image: © Paolo Camera