Southgate stresses importance of Games

13 July 2012 / 09:43

Gareth Southgate is urging Team GB's players to treat the Olympic football tournament as a major step in their careers.

Stuart Pearce's men's team will launch their Group A campaign against Senegal at Old Trafford on July 26 with high hopes of making an impact.

However Southgate, the Football Association's head of elite development, knows from experience how seriously other nations treat the competition.

He said: "Our guys face a disadvantage compared to a lot of the others sides as they will have been together a lot longer.

"Stuart has just got his players together, while teams like Brazil have played a series of friendly games already.

"There's a lot of ability in the squad. It's a shame to lose the likes of Gareth Bale, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling to injury, as I think they would all have been key players, but it's still a good squad.

"The unknown is some of the other countries, though. They all take their junior international teams very seriously.

"I remember the Australian boys I played with at Middlesbrough - people like Mark Viduka and Luke Wilkshire - all played in Olympic tournaments and saw it as a big part of their progression.

"Lionel Messi made a big thing of making sure he was available for the last Olympics, and the top Brazilians are taking great pride in being involved this time.

"Because we have never been in it over here, I don't think we have realised the importance of the Olympic tournament."