Mouth-watering Brazil clash kicks off vital summer for Team GB as Olympics loom

With reputations at stake, this summer should not be taken lightly by Stuart Pearce and his side, many of whom have plenty to prove ahead of the coming season
By Matt Scott

Team GB face Brazil on Friday night in a mouthwatering friendly clash that will serve as their only preparation for this summer's Olympic Games.

Despite being criticised by some, this summer's tournament is pivotal for the British figures involved and the summer of action starts in style in Middlesbrough with the test against the South Americans.

Whether it is reputation enhancement, a chance to impress potential suitors or the opportunity to seal a legacy, most, if not all, of the 18 members of Britain's Olympic squad and their coach, Stuart Pearce, will be looking to make 2012 a year to remember.
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Pearce has led England Under-21s since 2007, reaching the final of the European Championship in 2009 and taking charge, temporarily, of the senior side in defeat to Netherlands after Fabio Capello's resignation.

The former Nottingham Forest defender admitted during the search for Capello's successor that he lacked the experience to take the role full-time. The Games could be exactly what he needs to convince the Football Association, the public and himself that he could, one day, lead the Three Lions into a major tournament.

Several players will also be hoping a good showing at London 2012 can lead to immediate opportunities in the England set up.

Micah Richards, a long-term favourite of Pearce, was been unable to break into the Three Lions' squad under Capello and missed out on a place at Euro 2012 despite a strong, title-winning season at Manchester City.

The defender faces stiff competition for a place, but a good showing against the likes of Brazil and Uruguay's fearsome strike-forces could give Richards the opportunity to finally break back into the national side.

Daniel Sturridge is another facing a make-or-break summer. The Chelsea man may not get the chance he deserves, as viral meningitis threatens to prevent him from playing at the Games, but a run out against Brazil on Friday night will give him the chance to prove his fitness.

If available, the 22-year-old is set to play as Team GB's central striker, the position that Sturridge has wanted to play in his entire career. Having also been linked with a move from Stamford Bridge this summer, the former Manchester City man will be desperate to showcase his talents to anyone watching.

Joe Allen, Jack Butland and Scott Sinclair have also been linked with big-money moves and could push through a transfer with strong performances at the Games, with Butland also looking to silence those who criticised his inclusion in England's Euro 2012 squad.

The Olympics may also present some with a chance to put a disappointing 2011-12 campaign behind them, and provide a platform for a strong campaign next term.

11/1 Team GB are 11/1 to beat Brazil U23 1-0 with bet365
Tom Cleverley is looking to come back strongly from an injury-hit season while Aaron Ramsey will be keen to demonstrate his abilities to Arsene Wenger after a hit-and-miss 12 months at the Emirates that also saw Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain burst into the thoughts of many at Arsenal.

Before the Games, Pearce's men face a Brazil side fancied by many to go and win the competition, and the Olympics could also be crucial for several Selecao stars.

Neymar has the opportunity to prove his talent to doubters against more physical European defences. Oscar will be able to prove to Chelsea and Manchester United fans just what the fuss is all about while Hulk, Leandro Damiao and Ganso will also be aiming to impress, with all three heavily linked with a move to the Premier League.

However, in a tournament full of promising youngsters, it is the oldest player of them all who the Games mean the most to. The only thing missing from Ryan Giggs' glittering career is featuring, and possibly succeeding, at an international tournament.

The Welshman will captain Team GB at London 2012, leading them to glory would surely see him ranked as one of the greatest of all time.

Try telling him that the Olympics mean nothing.

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