Team GB shock Brazil
July 31, 2012 22:01 pm
Stephanie Houghton secured arguably the finest result in the history British women's football as Hope Powell's side stormed into the Olympic quarter-finals by beating Brazil 1-0 at Wembley.
There have been more significant achievements but even Football Association officials privately conceded that against such formidable opposition, in front of a British record 70,584 crowd, there has been no better evening.
In pure statistical terms, Houghton's third goal of the tournament meant Kelly Smith could afford to miss a second-half penalty and GB still managed to avoid a last-eight meeting with World Cup winners Japan. Instead they must play Canada, no slouches themselves as the seventh-ranked nation in the world, in Coventry on Friday.
Yet a measure of the task GB faced was the knowledge that England had beaten Brazil, in a competitive match, at any age group, by either gender, just once. It came in the Under-17s World Cup in 2007. The most notable members of the victorious team were Danny Welbeck, Victor Moses and Henri Lansbury.
Though the crowd was big, and noisy, few expected Britain to make a mockery of that statistic.
Unbelievably, within two minutes, they were in front. Struggling to clear an early corner, Brazil's lethargic defence allowed Karen Carney to chase down a loose ball, turn and then thread a pass through a posse of opposition players. Houghton read it brilliantly, nipped past Andreia and from the tightest of angles, rolled in.
Renata Costa belted a long-range free-kick over for Brazil and Karen Bardsley denied Cristiane, then skipper Marta. GB tried to release the pressure but it was the second-half before they created chances of their own.
Eniola Aluko found a bit of space on the right of the area, only to slash her shot wide. When Aluko was tripped by Francielle, Kelly Smith had the responsibility of converting from the spot. But the pressure was too great and a poor spot-kick was turned away by Andreia.
However Bardsley was in inspired from, turning away an ambitious effort from Marta with her feet. When two more promising attacks came to nothing, it seemed to sap the strength out of Brazilian legs.
It only left GB to hold their nerve and run the clock down. Hope Powell sensed it and introduced Ellen White to do a bit of extra running up front. It worked a treat. And the jubilation at the end, on and off the pitch, was a sight to behold.
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