Canada crush GB dreams
3 Jul, London 2012 (Quarter-final): GB 0, Canada 2 (City of Coventry Stadium)
Oh dear. There I was lauding the GB women’s football team, extolling their virtues after the invigorating 1-0 win over Brazil last time out, and then they go and let me down by sliding out of the Olympic Games quarter-finals against Canada with barely a whimper. Effin football? Yeah, funny old game …
I had, I informed TSF readers, watched my first full 90 minutes of women’s football ever – without feeling the need for an intermission – against Brazil. No breaks for anything; it was full-on viewing. It was brilliant. And yet after half-an-hour last night, with GB 2-0 down and especially after my technophobic problems with the BBC red button, I found myself distracted.
What about Andy Murray in the tennis semi-finals against Novak Djokovic? How had Rebecca Adlington got on in the swimming? Were our cycling heroes still ruling the velodrome? And when I had managed to find out how to switch back to the footie, it was close to half time at the City of Coventry Stadium and GB were still struggling to cope with the physical power of the dominant North Americans.
Jonelle Filigno had guided in a superb half-volley after 11 minutes and Christine Sinclair had curled in a free kick. I am no great statto but was that really her 140th goal for Canada? An astonishing fact, whether male, female or Martian. Total respect, Christine.
And so, during the second half, I flipped back and forwards on the Beeb, catching up on the multi-repeats of the GB rowing, cycling and judo heroics of earlier in the day. Great to watch for any patriot, again and again, as Hope Powell’s girls – so sadly, after so much promise – disappeared out of the tournament in front of 28,828 disbelieving fans.
This was not meant to happen. The unbeaten 100 per cent Group E winners – and victors over Brazil, no less – against the third-placed finishers in Group F with a mediocre W1, D1, L1 record. But, no, it was Canada who went on, relatively comfortably, to a semi-final against USA at Old Trafford on Monday night.
Sure, GB should have had a penalty with ten minutes to go when Rhian Wilkinson brought down Eniola Aluko in the area. Had GB scored from the spot, though, they would have possibly still fallen short. The hoorah, hurray bandwagon had long lost a wheel or two and was stricken at the side of the road.
At the side of the road they could remain. GB football – men and women – only entered London 2012 by virtue of being the host nation. Whether they will assemble to compete in Rio de Janeiro 2016, or ever again, is a moot point. Coach Powell hopes it will be otherwise.
“For myself and the players, this has been an incredible experience and if we get the opportunity again, I would give it the thumbs up,” Powell said. “I am not a decision-maker but if it is just the women’s team that get the chance to go into the next Olympics, I would take it. Our girls have learnt so much from this tournament and you can only improve from such experiences. I would love GB to be part of it again.”
“It was a tough game tonight and we could not get into the groove until we went 2-0 down. Credit to Canada. They were very physical and muscled us out of the game at times. We wanted to stay in the tournament for the long haul and the players were distraught afterwards. But I said that they should be proud of what they have achieved. They have won a lot of fans and can hold their heads up high. They are Olympians and that can never be taken away from them.”
It cannot. And GB football should be taken on to Rio. But only if the Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland FAs forget their petty politicking and embrace the ethos. The footballers, on the evidence of London 2012, have a right to a place among the gold-diggers of any other sports. This time, it has been fun. Great fun. So let them, again, have that chance.
Other women’s quarter-finals yesterday: Sweden 1, France 2 (Hampden Park), USA 2, New Zealand 0 (St James’ Park), Brazil 0, Japan 2 (Millennium Stadium).
Semi-finals (on Monday): France v Japan (Wembley, 5pm), Canada v USA (Old Trafford, 7.45).