Britain’s first men’s Olympic soccer tournament for more than 50 years ended in familiar fashion, with an Englishman missing a penalty as they lost a shootout against South Korea on Saturday.
After extra-time failed to separate the sides, who had finished all square at 1-1 at the end of 90 minutes, it was South Korea who held their nerve to win the shootout 5-4 and set up a semi-final with pre-tournament favorites Brazil in Manchester, England, on Tuesday.
Not even the fact this match was being staged at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, the home of the Wales national side, could prevent the team going out on penalties — an all-too familiar method of defeat for England in major international competitions.
Britain were only competing at the Olympic soccer event, their first since the 1960 Games in Rome, because they were the host nation.
The very presence of this side had aroused huge opposition from Celtic counties, fearful it could mark the start of their extinction as independent soccer nations, but on a night of unprecedented success for Britain’s athletes at the Olympic Stadium in London, with a trio of gold medalists, the wave of patriotic fervor could not sweep the hosts into the last four.
Even though Manchester United and Wales great Ryan Giggs, playing in his first major international tournament, smashed home his penalty to give Britain a 4-3 lead, a hesitant Daniel Sturridge, stuttering in his run-up, saw his spot-kick saved.
Britain manager Stuart Pearce knew how Sturridge felt, having himself had a penalty saved during England’s penalty shootout loss to West Germany in the semi-finals of the 1990 World Cup in Italy.
“The experience will make him better and stronger,” Pearce said. “Daniel got the winner three days ago that got us out of the group stages and today he misses the penalty. You have days like that, but he will benefit from it if my experience is anything to go by.”
Pearce said he could not foresee a Britain team taking part at a future Olympics.
“The format of Team GB in the Olympics has been fantastic, but I don’t think it will happen again. Where will we find the time to enter into a qualification tournament?” he said.
Ji Dong-won gave South Korea a 29th-minute lead with a swerving shot.
Then came two penalties for Britain, with Wales’ Aaron Ramsey scoring one and seeing goalkeeper Jung Sung-ryong, who was injured later, saving the other.
Brazil stayed on course for a first Olympic soccer gold medal, but only after a nervy 3-2 win over a Honduras side reduced to nine men.
Leandro Damiao equalized for Brazil after Mario Martinez put Honduras ahead. Roger Espinoza then restored the Central Americans’ lead.
However, Neymar brought Brazil level again from the penalty spot, before Internacional striker Damiao scored his second at Newcastle United’s St James’ Park.
Honduras gave Brazil — five-time world champions, but never Olympic gold medalists — a huge scare, despite having midfielder Wilmer Cristiano sent off with just 32 minutes gone for a second bookable offense, with Espinoza collecting his second yellow card just before the final whistle.
Japan stayed on course for an Olympic soccer double as their men’s team joined the women’s side in reaching the semi-finals following a 3-0 win over 10-man Egypt.
Goals from Kensuke Nagai, captain Maya Yoshida and Yuki Otsu took Japan through against an Egypt side who played more than half the match a man down after defender Saadeldin Saad was sent off in the 41st minute.