With Team GB needing only a point from their final group game against Uruguay to ensure qualification for the quarter-finals of the men’s football competition, Daniel Sturridge has confirmed that he is still not fully recovered from the viral meningitis scare which almost prevented him from competing at the Olympics.
The 23-year-old, who only played 45 minutes in the build-up to the tournament, looked out of sorts in the opening game against Senegal, but having been dropped to the bench by manager Stuart Pearce for Sunday’s game against UAE, he came on at the break and scored a stunning chip to put the seal on a 3-1 win.
‘I am getting there but I am still not 100 per cent,’ said the Blues attacker.
‘Basically, I am a week behind the rest of the lads in terms of fitness because they had a week of pre-season when I was at my club. Also I have lost a bit of weight but I am getting fitter.
‘I pretty much knew what I was going to do after the first touch. I looked up to see if the keeper was off his line and went for it straight away.
‘When you try something like that there is always a little doubt isn’t there? You just hope it comes off.’
Sturridge admitted that after contracting the illness at the beginning of the month, his Olympic dream appeared to be in tatters.
However, after missing out on Euro 2012 having been placed on standby by Roy Hodgson, he was determined to be a part of such a momentous event.
‘This was the centre-piece of my summer, he said. ‘It was the right stage to show what I am capable of, but I was more than a bit concerned about missing it.
‘A week after contracting meningitis, I was unsure whether I would be coming or not. At that stage I certainly felt worse than I thought I would.
‘Thankfully, as time went on I improved, although there were only a couple of days to go before we made the decision to go for it.’
The fact Team GB were only put together a couple of weeks before the start of the competition undoubtedly puts them at a slight disadvantage, particularly compared to those teams such as Brazil who play together on a regular basis.
With each game, however, relationships are evolving and performances improving, and while the group are desperate to give the nation something to cheer, Sturridge is simply delighted to be involved.
‘It is completely different,’ said Sturridge. ‘Everyone is mingling. It is not about football. It is about Team GB and being part of something special. It is about a huge team that is trying to contribute medals.
‘Going to the opening ceremony was amazing. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for all the players to be involved in something like that.
‘You normally watch it on TV but to be able to go round the stadium, with all the fireworks and see Paul McCartney, it was just a phenomenal experience.’