Much of the focus ahead of the Olympics for British soccer fans was on Stuart Pearce’s men’s team and their hopes of challenging Brazil for a medal. After the girls claimed a shock 1-0 win over the Brazilians at Wembley on Tuesday night, it is they who are making the headlines!
Steph Houghton continued her amazing run of scoring as Hope Powell‘s side stormed booked their place in the Olympic quarter-finals. Having started the tournament as relative outsiders at 14-1, Ladbrokes were forced to cut Team GB to 4-1 for a gold medal. With the game being played in front of a British record 70,584 crowd, it was an incredible performance from the British team that has put women’s football firmly in the spotlight.
The victory could have been even more impressive had Kelly Smith not missed a second-half penalty, a win that neatly side-steps a clash with World Cup winners Japan in the last eight. Instead they are matched with seventh-ranked Canada in Coventry on Friday. Having gone into the game with Brazil as outsiders, they suddenly find themselves hot favourites to progress to the semi-finals and must now face a different sort of pressure. The win is even more remarkable when compared to the statistic that England, not to be confused with GB, have only beaten Brazil in any competitive international fixture (male or female) just once. That was back in 2007 when the Under-17’s claimed a World Cup victory.
Cheered on by the enormous crowd, the British team struck in only the second minute as Brazil made a sloppy start that allowed Karen Carney to send Houghton through to score. Brazil, themselves thought to be probably the stiffest rivals to the American gold medal favourites, responded with chances for Cristiane and Marta but Karen Bardsley looked very assured between the posts. GB weathered the storm and came out in search of a decisive second goal after the break. Little should have done better with a close range header that she directed straight at Andreia.
When Aluko was tripped by Francielle, Kelly Smith had the chance to seal the victory but her spot-kick lacked conviction and was turned away by the Brazilian keeper. That escape gave the Brazilians encouragement to lay siege to the GB goal but Bardsley was again in fine form to deny Marta. GB were able to run down the clock and send the crowd into wild celebration. The USA remain firm favourites to win gold at 5-4 but GB have now ousted Brazil as second favourites. They are now right in the hunt for a medal.
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