MIDDLESBROUGH, ENGLAND - JULY 20: Daniel Sturridge of GB looks on during the international friendly match between Team GB and Brazil at Riverside Stadium on July 20, 2012 in Middlesbrough, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
The big story of the day, ignoring Chelsea's preseason loss in Brighton, was the 2012 Olympic football quarterfinals. Three Chelsea players were involved, with Oscar featuring for Brazil and Daniel Sturridge and Ryan Bertrand going against South Korea with the Great Britain team. Two of those are coming back to the club after a heartbreaking loss on penalties.
It's been a pretty bad day for Bertrand. It's been a worse one for Sturridge, because he missed the deciding kick in 'Team GB's' 1-1 (4-5) loss. That's a pretty traumatic thing for any player to go through, but with Sturridge's future seemingly in the balance and the young forward desperately looking to establish himself as a top player it must be hitting him particularly hard. It wasn't even that bad a penalty, either, although he did rather telegraph his intent to substitute goalkeeper Lee Bum-Young.
Other than that, Sturridge had a pretty decent game. He had some moments where he shot when he should have passed, but his selfishness was once again a little bit overstated, and he did win the penalty that would have put Great Britain 2-1 up if not for Aaron Ramsey's miss. Sure, towards the end of extra time, he did have a shot that ended up going out for a throw-in, but he's still not back to full fitness and put in two hours of work -- I'm not expecting him to be one hundred percent sharp just yet. Remember that he's only a month past a case of viral meningitis.
The penalty miss is obviously deeply unfortunate, but these things happen, especially when you're English and playing in international tournaments. Hopefully he can bond with Ashley Cole over the left back's miss in the Euros, which I'd complete forgotten about until just now. Other than that, two goals in three starts and one substitute appearance wasn't a bad tournament at all.
As fro Ryan Bertrand, he didn't have much to do. South Korea focused on their left side, leaving GB's left back more or less free of any serious defensive responsibilities. He worked hard to support Scott Sinclair on that side and played the full two hours without any serious incidents. That's basically how Ryan Bertrand works, anyway. He's very, very competent and almost pathologically unflashy. I like it.
There's still one Chelsea player alive and kicking in this tournament, however. Oscar, who'll face South Korea with Brazil in the semifinals, is in a great position to bring home a medal, and has a very decent shot at gold. However, the Selecao will have to step up their game if they want to win it all this year, because they looked very, very poor against Honduras. Twice, they went down and had to fight back, and that's despite spending most of the match with a man advantage.
Brazil's movement and intelligence just wasn't there today, and that reflected on Oscar's play. He was competent, and although that's nowhere his usual superb self, it's very difficult to play passes when your teammates simply aren't making the runs. He seemed to share in his team's frustrations, however, repeatedly losing the ball by attempting to beat a man when he'd have normally played it safe and recycled possession.
He also got fouled. A lot. Neymar was doing plenty of diving, but it was actually Oscar who was taking most of the punishment for Brazil. He was fouled four times, but three of those were bad enough to earn a booking for the guilty party, including a second yellow for Roger Espinoza in the closing stages of the match (Honduras' second sending off). The worse was probably a challenge by left back Maynor Figueroa which saw the defender plant his studs into Oscar's thigh, but after a spell on the ground the midfielder was back up and running around at full steam.
Some have questioned Oscar's ability to survive the physical nature of the Premier League, which is perfectly reasonable given his stature. Honduras' is core based in the MLS, which is even rougher than England, and their players are notorious for overstepping the bounds even there. Oscar took the punishment they were dishing out like a champ. It's not an answer, but it is a very good sign.
And, of course, we got some breathtaking through balls and some dazzling skill. Even on an off-ish day, it's still Oscar.