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After opening Olympics with draw, Britain faces must-win UAE match at Wembley to avoid fiasco

07/28/2012 11:33 EDT | Updated 09/27/2012 05:12 EDT
WEMBLEY, England - After opening the Olympic football tournament with a draw, Britain is already in a must-win scenario to keep its first appearance at the games in 52 years from ending in a fiasco.

The hosts only managed a 1-1 draw against Senegal on Thursday and knows it will have to improve against the United Arab Emirates at Wembley on Sunday.

"We know the magnitude of this game on Sunday, now we got the first game out of the way and the nerves (too)," Britain coach Stuart Pearce said Saturday. "We go into every tournament attempting to win it. Other people wanting to focus on us not in Olympics for 50 odd years, fine, but myself the message I've wanted to give is that we're in it for the long-haul."

Forward Craig Bellamy, who scored Britain's goal, was declared fit on Saturday, which means the entire squad is available. That includes Chelsea striker Daniel Sturridge, who played only 45 minutes against Senegal after being treated for viral meningitis earlier this month.

"It's a big game but we are used to it. Obviously we have confidence," Sturridge said. "There were always going to be nerves in the first game but once you get that out the way, in the last two games we will go about our business and do what we do best."

Britain must seize on the Wembley support against UAE, which took the lead against Uruguay in their opening game before losing to the South Americans 2-1.

"I am looking forward to playing in front of a London crowd and hopefully we can do it for ourselves and them," said the 23-year-old James Tomkins, who grew up in neighbouring Essex.

Britain's players took part in Friday's opening ceremony, and Pearce believed that experience and meeting with other Olympians would help the camaraderie within the squad going forward.

"The Olympic village experience now is quite incredible. Every day there's a new experience in the village to take your breath away," said Pearce, who believed being athletes from different sports would provide a big lift to the team. "The professionalism and dedication of these (Olympic athletes) is there for all to see. To be working jobs and be athletes and to come from all around the world is beautiful and awe-inspiring."

Despite the pressure and excitement of home games, Britain's players have managed to find an unlikely manner to stay calm — playing scrabble.

"There is a lot of down time so it's important we keep ourselves entertained. It's nice really, as it brings the team together," said Tomkins, who was hoping to run into tennis star Roger Federer during the games. "Federer is a massive hero of mine and it will be great to meet him. We could play some Scrabble."

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Paul Logothetis can be reached at: www.twitter.com/PaulLogoAP

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