Powell full of hope for winning start

24 July 2012 / 15:19

Team GB women's coach Hope Powell knows the home side cannot afford to take New Zealand lightly in Wednesday's Olympic Games opener at the Millennium Stadium.

Team GB will start as favourites against the Football Ferns as they get Group E under way in Cardiff, with the Kiwis having never won a game at an Olympics or a World Cup finals.

But New Zealand have made big strides over the last 12 months, pushing world champions Japan and Powell's England side close in the group stages of last year's World Cup in Germany. And Powell knows her charges cannot afford to underestimate their opponents if they want to give the host nation a victory in the first sporting action of the 2012 Games.

"They have done a lot of work in the last 12 months," said Powell.

"We played them in the World Cup as England and they were a tough proposition and they are vastly improved. They worked really well throughout the game we faced them in, they brought a lot of pressure and they will run and run and run for 90 minutes.

"In all areas they are really striving to improve their game and they are getting better technically, so the game is a big challenge and we are expecting a tough encounter as they are quite strong in all areas."

A crowd of more than 35,000 is expected for the fixture, and Powell believes that figure is a sign of the growing popularity of the women's game.

She said: "It means a lot for people to come and support the girls and hopefully by Wednesday we can get a few more tickets sold. It's a privilege to play in front of a crowd like that and it shows that people want to come. The crowd will be behind us and hopefully we can push on and get a victory."

New Zealand coach Tony Readings, meanwhile, is honoured that his side will help to get the Olympics under way, and is hoping the pressure of the occasion for the home side will allow his team to capitalise.

He said: "We are playing the host nation and it is something to look forward to. We are always proud to pull on the shirt and represent our country, but to be the first athletes to represent our country is something we are really looking forward to."