CARDIFF: Coach Hope Powell is confident Team GB will produce a strong advert for the women’s game when they make history against New Zealand in Cardiff tomorrow.
This the sporting event which launches the 2012 Olympic Games even though it takes place at the Millennium Stadium two days before the formal Opening Ceremony. This will also mark Britain’s women footballers’ debut at the Olympic finals.
Powell said: “It puts women’s football out there, puts it on the map and hopefully will showcase the sport. It’s our first time as Team GB and you will be nervous, but I’m sure they will rise to the occasion. Being the first event is fantastic for us – I hope it will be a real positive and , because there aren’t other sports taking place that day, the media interest will be unprecedented.”
Birmingham City forward Eniola Aluko, who started a warm-up fixture against Sweden last Friday, believes the timing of the match gives her team an opportunity to inspire a generation of talent.
She said: “It’s an honour and a privilege. You feel special – you’re one of 18 people chosen to represent the country and lots of people are looking up to you to inspire them and be a role model – so yes, honour is the word.”
Powell’s team are in Group E along with heavily fancied Brazil and relative unknowns Cameroon as well as New Zealand. The first two in each group will definitely qualify for a quarter-final place, with two of the teams finishing third also claiming a place in the last eight.
There are no age restrictions in the women’s competition and 16 of the 18 players in the GB squad are English, with the other two coming from Scotland.
Many of Powell’s squad played against New Zealand in last year’s World Cup, a group match that England won 2-1 on their way to reaching the last eight, where they lost to France after a penalty shoot-out.
GB will continue their campaign against Cameroon in Cardiff on Saturday before concluding the group stage of the competition against Brazil at Wembley three days later.
THE OPPOSITION . . .
How they qualified: The Football Ferns beat Papua New Guinea 15-0 over two legs in the Oceania Women’s Olympic Qualifier Final. One to watch: Amber Hearn.
How they qualified: Beat Nigeria on penalties to become one of two teams qualifying from the CAF group along with South Africa. One to watch: Francoise Josephine Bella
How they qualified: Won the Women’s South American Tournament with a round to spare when beating Colombia 5-0. One to watch: Marta
= = = =