Open football: Team GB 1 Argentina 1
Team GB were forced to settle for a point in their opening group game against Argentina on Monday morning in Haifa.
A strike early in the second half from Paul Hakim was cancelled out by a 67th minute equaliser after the GB defence momentarily switched off.
Argentina looked the better team early on. They created a couple of chances with Guy Morris coming to GB’s rescue after some sloppy defending.
The South Americans were quick, skilful and physical, imposing themselves on the Brits in an early morning kick off at Ketzef Central.
GB gradually came into the game. Scott Shulton released Hakim with a brilliant slide-rule pass but the former St. Albans and Wingate marksman was denied by a great save by the keeper.
Morris was exceptional, keeping the Argentines at arm’s length.
Another good GB move saw captain Sam Sloma link up with Hakim to set up an opening for James Gershfield who was denied by alert goalkeeping.
Sloma then found himself clean through midway through the half but his attempted lob drifted over.
GB keeper Andrew Goldman had to be alert on 32 minutes when an Argentinian corner was met on the half volley. The shot arrowed towards the top corner by the Sydney-based stopper arched back to brilliantly tip the ball over the bar.
Hakim had another chance after 35 minutes. Latching on to a long clearance from David Soutar, he rounded the keeper but miscued from the tightest of angles.
GB finished the first half strongly with Sloma forcing a fine save from the impressive Argentine stopper.
Jonathan Kestenbaum’s troops made the perfect start to the second half. A slick move saw Gershfield thread a beautiful pass to Hakim who surged into the box, holding off two defenders before producing a cool finish before high-fiving dad Simon in the crowd.
Rather than looking to kill the match off, GB appeared content to sit back, keeping things narrow in what was a very stop-start second half.
That said, Gershfield’s snapshot was held at the second attempt by the keeper.
Howver, they were punished for switching off defensively after 67 minutes when an Argentinian player cleverly back-heeled the ball home from eight yards with Goldman stranded.
Following the equaliser, the game’s second drinks break allowed GB into a tactical rethink. They had chances to win it with Gershfield and Hakim linking up well again only for a brave last-ditch tackle denying them a second.
Then on 71 minutes, a short corner was returned to Sloma whose whipped cross was headed wide by Guy Morris.
The Argentine goal was leading a charmed life and after great work from Gershfield, Stock helped it on to Hakim who looked set to score only for a brilliant block by the keeper.
The final whistle blew with Hakim, 27, shaking his head as GB knew that this was an opportunity missed.
Hakim said: “I’m very disappointed. We started nervously and took 20 minutes to settle. 1-1 is not a bad result but we’re frustrated after going ahead. I was happy with the goal but probably should’ve had one or two more.”
Captain Sam Sloma commented: “We did enough to win so are naturally disappointed. Defensively we were excellent with Guy Morris and Craig Ellis really outstanding. Our forwards were not smart enough. We had a lot of possession and some good performances.
“We didn’t lose, which was important, and it was tough in the heat. There’s still lots of football to play and we will be prepared come Wednesday (for the next game against France).”
Head coach Les Reed said: “Our toughest game is out of the way. The Argentina keeper played very well as we had threats. Our boys defended very well, we looked the more composed but Argentina don’t take any prisoners.
“I thought the standard was high,” The former Charlton manager. “It was great to get a game like that under our belt. I’m really proud of them. They taken information on board and applied it. The golden rule in tournament football is don’t lose your first game. The boys are still very much in there.”
Looking ahead to Wednesday evening’s second group game against France, 0-3 losers to Brazil on Sunday, Reed said: “I’ll be interested to see how they respond after the result and having a man sent off. Our biggest challenge now is how we recover.
“We’ve got to beat France and it would be nice to go into our final group game against Brazil with a place confirmed in the next round. The boys are desperate to beat Brazil after what happened in 2005.”
GB: Andrew Goldman, David Soutar (sub: Michael Sacks 68), Guy Helman, Jonathan Kurrant (sub: Ben Lauffer 65), Guy Morris, Craig Ellis, James Gershfield, Scott Shulton (sub: Matt Stock 65), Paul Hakim, Mitch Hahn (sub: Daniel Stanton 78), Sam Sloma (capt) (sub: Alex Levack 85).
Subs not used: Danny Berliner, Alex Levack, Craig Ellis, Daniel Stanton, Danny Berg, Michael Warwick
JC match stats
On target: 3
Yellow: 1 (Kurrant – late tackle)
On target: 2