Houghton in heaven as women rock Wembley
31 Jul, London 2012 (Group E): GB 1, Brazil 0 (Wembley)
GB women reached the quarter-finals of the Olympic football tournament with a stirring victory over mighty Brazil at Wembley last night, a goal from Steph Houghton settling the issue after only 91 seconds. They will now meet Canada in the last eight at the City of Coventry Stadium on Friday evening.
And at last I managed to watch a women’s match for the full 90 minutes! No comfort breaks, no coffee breaks, no walking the dog. Such was the engrossing nature of the match, I sat transfixed from start to finish as Hope Powell’s ladies not only matched the Brazilians but, at times, gave them the runaround.
“It was incredible,” Kim Little, the tigerish midfielder, said. “That was probably the best experience of all our lives and to get a victory for all those fans was just unbelievable. We wanted to win the group, we’ve done that and we’re so happy. We scored early, defended well and thoroughly deserved it.”
Coach Powell, however, urged caution amid the euphoria in a crowd of 70,584, the biggest-ever attendance for a women’s match in this country. “Every game, we’ve done well, we’ve won the game, we’ve topped the group,” she said. “The danger is that everybody starts jumping on this ‘medal’ thing. We still have to play Canada. They want a medal as much as anybody else. And we’re not in a position yet to get a medal.”
GB made the perfect start when Karen Carney crossed to the near post and Houghton nipped in ahead of Brazil goalkeeper Andreia to score from an acute angle. It was her third goal in as many games, not bad for a left back! Although GB had a lucky escape, when Alex Scott inadvertantly headed against her own post, they were good value for their half-time lead.
Brazil grew increasingly frustrated – how often do you see a Brazilian side hoofing the ball forward aimlessly? – and were mostly restricted to shots from long range that inevitably flew wide. GB could have wrapped it up in the 56th minute, after Eniola Aluko had been cynically tripped in the area by Francielle, but Kelly Smith’s weak penalty was easily saved by Andreia.
Still, GB held on comfortably. “This is a wonderful experience that, probably, we might not ever experience again,” Powell said. “Part of the process is fun and enjoyment, having a good time. These will be fantastic memories and we’ve got to embrace it. It’s a great opportunity to showcase women’s football. We’re just trying to have a good time and I think it makes it easier when you win. It elevates everybody, even though we’re knackered.”
GB might have been sent to Coventry … but they’re loving every minute of it.
Other women’s results yesterday: Group E: New Zealand 3, Cameroon 1 (City of Coventry Stadium). Group F: Japan 0, South Africa 0 (Millennium Stadium), Canada 2, Sweden 2 (St James’ Park). Group G: USA 1, North Korea 0 (Old Trafford), France 1, Colombia 0 (St James’ Park).
Quarter-finals (on Friday): Sweden v France, Brazil v Japan, USA v New Zealand, GB v Canada.