Bring on Brazil, declares buoyant British women's football coach Powell
Wednesday, 25 April 2012
April 25 - Britain's women's football coach Hope Powell is relishing the prospect of pitting her wits against Brazil at the Olympic Games after the football draw was made.
Brazil has been the runners-up to the United States at the last two Games and has reached the last four every time since women's football was introduced to the Olympic programme at Atlanta 1996.
Particular threats will be striker Cristiane, joint all-time top scorer at the Olympics alongside Germany's Birgit Prinz with 10 goals, as well as five-times World Player of the Year Marta (pictured below, in yellow), one of the greatest-ever female players.
Coach Jorge Barcellos' squad is hugely experienced and one of the three main contenders for the crown along with favourites Japan and the US, the World Cup holders and Olympic champions, respectively.
By comparison Great Britain is making its debut as a women's football team.
Group E is poised for a superb finale between the pair, with Powell's side taking on Brazil at Wembley on July 31 – arguably the highlight of the group stage and a huge boost for both British women's football and the Olympic organisers.
Some 1.5 million tickets are still unsold for the football, but many could now be snapped up when they are put back on sale.
At the Wembley press conference following the draw, Powell (pictured top, alongside Team GB men's football coach Stuart Pearce) said: "Any game of this magnitude – World Cups, European Cups and Olympics – will always be tough, but I think we have to look at Brazil as a great opportunity to raise our game and platform."
Britain and Brazil will be favourites to advance from Group E, but will have to overcome Cameroon and New Zealand to do so.
For New Zealand London 2012 represents a second Olympic Games and it is hoping to improve on its group stage exit in 2008.
The Kiwis will have the honour of playing Britain in the opening event of the entire Olympics, at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium on July 25, two days before the Opening Ceremony of the Games.
New Zealand coach Tony Readings told insidethegames: "It is going to be massive for us – to come to the Olympics is a big thing anyway, and to play in the opening game against Team GB is going to be massive for us.
"Last time we played Brazil was in 2007 and it was a mismatch between the two teams.
"We have evolved a lot since then but they have become better.
"Whenever you play Brazil is really special – they have some of the best players in the world."
For Cameroon, their aims are more modest, and coach Enow Ngachu is relishing the chance to take his country to its maiden major FIFA-backed international tournament.
The African nation is aiming to qualify for the last eight, Ngachu said, and he added: "It is a tough group, because it is our first experience [of the Games].
"We are trying to make the team more popular, and with this Olympic Games the matches will be live and will excite many Cameroonians.
"We are excited to play against top players like Marta and Cristiane."
The top two teams in each group will progress to the quarter-finals along with the two best third-placed teams.
April 2012: Team GB footballers face tough London 2012 test following group draws
April 2012: London 2012 will raise profile of women's football, believes GB coach Powell