MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JULY 26: Craig Bellamy of Great Britain celebrates scoring to make it 1-0 during the Men's Football first round Group A Match of the London 2012 Olympic Games between Great Britain and Senegal, at Old Trafford on July 26, 2012 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
We haven't exactly given the Olympics the deluxe treatment around here--I guess everyone knew that Craig Bellamy was playing for Great Britain, Luis Suarez and Sebastian Coates are regulars for Uruguay, and most of the matches were being played at stadiums that are about a quarter full of crowds that consistently boo Luis Suarez because it's the thing to do. So yeah, lots of fun.
But with the lone Liverpool matchup on the cards it's at least worth a mention, and that it's got some decently high stakes makes it about as must-see from a Liverpool perspective as any match from the group stages has been. I mean, other than to make sure everyone's singing their respective country's national anthem. Because we're all supporters of contrived media controversies about empty patriotic gestures.
Anyhow, this one will determine who qualifies for the knockout stages along with Senegal, who'll likely ease past pointless (numbers-wise, not philosophically) United Arab Emirates. Bellamy's Great Britain earned a point against Senegal in a match that was more about survival than anything else, as the Senegalese--who defeated Suarez and Coates' Uruguay 2-0 in the last round--embraced the Charlie Adam method of tackling en route to their point. With Bellamy's gingerbread knees it was horrifying stuff, but thankfully he escaped relatively unscathed after scoring an early first-half goal. He turned provider in the 3-1 win over UAE in the second round, leaving Great Britain joint top with Senegal on four points heading into the final round.
It's been more of a mixed bag for Suarez, Coates, and Uruguay, who had to fight back against the UAE in the opening round and were humbled by a 10-man Senegal squad. The Uruguayan defending on set pieces was absolutely atrocious and they were unable to get anything started in an attack that was a major factor in most predicting a gold for the South American side. Their three points came when on-again, off-again Liverpool target Gaston Ramirez got the leveler against UAE with a fantastic free kick, and Nicolas Lodeiro--another Uruguayan linked with Liverpool because Liverpool want ALL THE URUGUAYANS--got the winner with just over thirty minutes to play.
Besides the fact that Uruguayans is a funny word to look at, especially in all caps, it'll be interesting to see how the matchup plays out. Suarez has been decent but not great, and he's earned most of the attention for his reputation in England rather than for anything he's done on the pitch. Coates has been solid and played every minute thus far, with no reason to expect that he'll miss out against Great Britain. And Bellamy's been Bellamy, tearing down the wing and pushing his side forward, underlining just how valuable he is to a side and just how much of a void his exit from Liverpool would create, even if the Play-Doh holding his knees together is starting to crust and break.
You shouldn't have to struggle too much to find live coverage--kickoff is at 7:45PM BST/2:45PM EST; NBC Sports Network is carrying the match in the US (channel 603 on DIRECTV, 159 on DISH Network, 640/1640 on U-Verse, and 90/590 on Verizon, also other places and stuff) and BBC3 in the UK. We'll be moving on to the Liverpool-Gomel preview as the day progresses, but we'll keep on eye on a result that'll determine who Liverpool will be able to welcome back in the near future.
Amid lots of disappointment, obviously.