Giggs admits Great Britain weren't good enough after crashing out on penalties
Now Ryan Giggs knows what tournament football is really like. On a night when a dream ended in familiar fashion, Team GB’s captain was forced to admit shortcomings after an agonising penalty shootout defeat.
While this nation’s athletes were being spectacularly making history in the Olympic Stadium, the footballers found history being frustratingly repeated as South Korea held their nerve to win 5-4 on spot-kicks after Daniel Sturridge saw his effort saved by Bumyoung Lee.
It meant that there was no dream finale for Giggs, whose glittering career had lacked an appearance at a major tournament, but there was no sense the Manchester United star felt hard done by as he explained Team GB’s quarter-final elimination.
‘We weren’t good enough’ said Giggs, reflecting on a game that ended 1-1 after 120 minutes. ‘That is the bottom line. Our luck ran out and it could have gone either way. Not going to a tournament with Wales will always be a (personal) disappointment. We were never good enough, it’s simple.
‘But I will look back on this experience with great pride. To captain the Great Britain side has been a privilege. Obviously it is disappointing to have lost like we did but the overall experience has been nothing but positive.’
While the climax to the evening was dramatic, there was a slightly surreal atmosphere at times, as chants of “One Jessie Ennis!” and “One Mo Farah!” broke out, as news filtered through of their achievements in London.
It gave a sense that football was intruding on the main event but Team GB head coach Stuart Pearce, who saw Aaron Ramsey miss a penalty in the 40th minute, shortly after he had equalised a strike from Sunderland’s Ji Dongwon from the spot, feels the sport’s place on the schedule was merited.
‘I've been walking around the Olympic park and bumping into families who are telling me it's their first game and how they've never been to football together before,’ he said.
‘I think these people have really enjoyed it. We've touched another audience.
‘It would be interesting to know how many were first-time football fans coming to the games. If they've turned up and enjoyed the experience under the Olympic umbrella, I think it's been a real success. I really do.’
Pearce will now return to his role as England Under-21 Head Coach but he feels Sturridge and Tom Cleverley, two young men who have graduated through the ranks, are now in line for regular senior action. It could be that Roy Hodgson selects them for his squad to face Italy in a friendly next week.
‘I certainly think they’ll be around the squad,’ said Pearce. ‘With the talent that’s available, I think the way Cleverley can handle the ball and with Sturridge’s eye for goal, they’re two individuals who can be in and around the senior England team.
‘That’s my opinion. They’ve both benefited from this tournament and they will both go back to their clubs, to Manchester United and Chelsea, with something to prove.’