CARDIFF: Brazil became the first team to reach the quarter-finals of the women’s football tournament at London 2012 by defeating New Zealand 1-0 and then Great Britain followed them through from Group E with a 3-0 success over Cameroon.
Outsiders New Zealand had threatened a surprise againt Brazil until Christiane struck five minutes from time.
New Zealand, after a similar late 1-0 defeat by hosts Great Britain, knew something from this game would ease a potential passage into in the next round, though it was never going to be easy against a Brazil side fresh off the back of a 5-0 demolition of Cameroon.
Despite a resilient display in defence and midfield by the Football Ferns it proved to be a bridge too far. Marta’s deep free-kick caused havoc in the New Zealand box and, with goalkeeper Jenny Bindon straying from her goalline, Cristiane lobbed the ball over a raft of white shirts and into the net.
Both sides made a single change to their starting line-ups, Betsy Hassett replacing Kirsty Yallop in midfield for the Football Ferns, while Cristiane was rewarded for her goalscoring cameo against Cameroon to come in for Thais Guedes.
Brazil were limited to efforts from distance early on as they failed to find their usual devastating rhythm. New Zealand held their own for the first half, getting among the Brazilians and leaving the favourites’ defence looking nervy under a multitude of crosses.
The Canarinha ended the half the strongest, though. Three minutes from half-time Formiga struck a right-footed volley from the edge of the box following a cleared corner, but it was crucially deflected around the post by Amber Hearn.
While the Football Ferns would have been the happier at the break, Brazil unlocked them early on in the second half. The two-full backs combined as Fabiana got in behind the New Zealand defence and fired across the box, but the late-arriving Maurine sliced her shot wide.
However, the frustration for Brazil continued with New Zealand defending stoutly and breaking up the South Americans’ play well. Full-backs Ali Riley and Hannah Percival were resilient throughout against their onrushing opposite numbers.
After 85 minutes, however, Cristiane was on hand to take advantage of a mix-up in the New Zealand defence and send the South Americans into the knockout stages. This was Christiane’s 12th goal in all Olympic finals matches.
Great Britain 3 Cameroon 0
Hosts Great Britain will continue their Olympic challenge into the quarter-finals after Hope Powell’s team booked their place in the last eight with a handsome 3-0 victory over Cameroon in Cardiff.
Quickfire goals in the first half from Casey Stoney and Jill Scott set Great Britain on their way to an important win, and the points were sealed with ten minutes to play by Stephanie Houghton.
Knowing that victory would guarantee a place in the next round alongside Brazil, Team GB began brightly, creating several chances to break the deadlock, and eventually claimed an early lead through Stoney after 17 minutes.
The team captain, a veteran of two FIFA Women’s World Cups™ with England, had a simple finish from two yards out after a deep delivery from the left hand side to put the hosts in front.
Fans at the Millennium Stadium did not have to wait long for a second goal either, with Everton midfielder Scott doubling Great Britain’s advantage with a sumptuous team goal.
Kelly Smith found Scottish star Kim Little free in the Cameroon penalty area and the latter produced a sensational flick with the outside of her foot to perfectly set up Scott, who made no mistake with a side-footed finish.
As the half wore on, Team GB could have added to their lead. Smith went close with a free-kick, while Cameroon goalkeeper Annette Ngo Ndom was tested twice, first by Little then by the match-winner on Day 1, Houghton.
The two combined to present Little with a chance that Ngo Ndom was equal to before Houghton sent a far-post header towards goal which the ‘keeper pushed onto the post and away.
With their two-goal cushion in place, Great Britain dictated the play in a second half of few opportunities. Anita Asante saw an effort cleared off the line by Bibi Medoua and Little again worked Ngo Ndom before Houghton iced the cake in the 81st minute.
Little was involved again and, after failing to work space for a shot of her own, set up Houghton to drill a precise finish into the corner and ensure that the hosts will be among the eight teams taking part in the quarter-finals.
The final round of fixtures in Group E will be played on Tuesday 31 July, when Great Britain and Brazil will battle for top spot, while Cameroon take on New Zealand.
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