(LONDON, 11 Oct 2014) — Under-pressure Team GB manager Roberto Martinez declared himself “satisfied” with his team’s performance despite their 2-1 home defeat to Denmark yesterday in the first competitive match for the amalgamated British team.
“We have only had a couple of friendlies to mould a team since the four national associations were combined this summer, and we were missing several key players,” said the Spaniard. “So although I’m not happy to lose, I am satisfied that the team is progressing.”
The British side got off to the worst possible start when, just moments after the final bars of “God Save The Queen”, Andreas Laudrup was felled inside Robert Green’s box following a careless challenge by captain John Terry. Laudrup, son of Danish legend Michael, stroked the penalty home himself.
Midway through the second half, Denmark doubled their lead when another Laudrup, Brian’s son Nikolai, capitalised on an error by Christophe Berra, who had replaced the ageing Rio Ferdinand at half-time. Berra – a surprise inclusion in the squad, and some say a token Scot – was ruthlessly booed by the Wembley crowd every time he touched the ball afterwards.
Less than half the crowd saw an injury-time consolation by Andy Carroll, thousands having left well before the end. The lone contingent of non-English fans, a small band of Northern Irishmen wearing the green shirt of their now-defunct team, were among those who held on loyally until the final whistle. In the royal box, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge also saw out the full game, appearing happy despite rumours of tension in their marriage due to Prince William’s recently revealed sterility.
Royal pal and Great Britain assistant manager David Beckham stood up for the beleagured Team GB manager. “Everyone should get off Roberto’s back,” he told ESPN after the game. “We had 11 players out there who wanted to play for Britain, they all gave one hundred per cent, one hundred and ten per cent.”
Spaniard Martinez was a controversial choice to lead the British international football squad. Many felt the job should have gone to a British manager, though none of the leading contenders from Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland expressed interest in the role. British FA chairman Peter Mandelson felt that selecting Sam Allardyce, the preferred English candidate, would further antagonise fans of the three minor countries – fans who already say the unified team is English-dominated. Last night’s team lent support to their view: in his starting line-up Martinez selected just a single non-Englishman, Wales’ Aaron Ramsey, with pantomime villain Berra the only other Celt to take the field.
Wayne Rooney, retired from international football since England’s second-round exit from the World Cup, left no-one in the dark about his opinion. “told Rio we shouldnt have no jocks in the team.everyone knows theyre usless [sic] at football” he tweeted soon after Berra’s transgression. This was in stark contrast to his earlier message of support for his former England colleague John Terry, responsbile for the early penalty: “john unlucky there.danish guy is fast”
British captain Terry, who also captained Team GB as an over-age player in the disastrous 2012 Olympic campaign, was furious with criticism of the side. “This is a new team coming together, and we need a bit of time,” he said. “I know the English public, the British public, expects us to win every game. Denmark are a top side, but we will go there and win, we will still qualify for France, and we can still win the whole thing, despite the handicap placed on us.”
Terry was referring to the fact that Team GB were drawn in the third group of seeds – averaging out the seeding of the four home nations – whereas England alone would have been a top seed. Great Britain thus play in the ‘group of death’ alongside World Champions Spain and Denmark, surprise semi-finalists in Brazil. The three teams are competing with Lithuania and Malta for a single guaranteed qualification spot and one playoff place.
In Glasgow, next month’s planned game at Hampden of an unofficial “Scotland” side against Catalonia has been thrown into doubt by the bankruptcy of the Hampden Park Ltd, operator of Scotland’s former national stadium. With the amalgamation of the home nations and the decision to play all home matches at Wembley until at least 2018, auditors refused to certify the firm as a going concern, prompting a bankruptcy declaration on Thursday.
Kroenke Group, the real estate firm controlled by Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke, has expressed interest in building Britain’s first Walmart on the Mount Florida site; Kroenke is married to a daughter of Walmart co-founder Bud Walton. Scottish fans have urged Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond to step in and save the stadium, but the SNP leader says that he will not spend taxpayer funds unless the ground can be guaranteed to host regular international football again. Cynics say he is using the stadium predicament to bolster support for independence in next year’s referendum.
Scotland vs Denmark 2-1