Bus breakdowns, face/off teams and sad goodbyes
Yesterday, chips and dip in hand and bums firmly on seats, we settled in to for the third and final group matches of the Women’s Football for London 2012. Last on, but first up in this post, was Brazil vs. Team GB. It wasn’t going to be an easy match, but despite Brazil’s coach Jorge Barcellos’ loud pre-match protestations, Team GB came onto the field at Wembley looking ready for the fight ahead. And fight they did. With only just over two minutes on the clock Arsenal left-back Steph Houghton got past Brazilian Goalkeeper Andréia to score for Team GB, putting her team ahead as well as taking her lead in the GB scoring charts with her third goal in three group games. In a staggeringly well-organised display, Team GB overcame their much-vaunted rivals with a performance full of defensive grit, emphatic forward play and intense commitment in front of Great Britain’s largest ever crowd for a women’s football match. Hope Powell’s team brought the fight to the Brazilians and now go on to play Canada in Friday’s quarter finals having not conceded a goal in 270 minutes of tournament football.
If there’s one team that has disappointed even more than Brazil, it would have to be Japan. World number 3, Japan. Women’s World Cup holders, Japan. Frankly, The Sportist is concerned that some dastardly Face/Off-style coup has taken place, because surely this can’t be the same team that played out a game against Canada so vanilla we didn’t realise it had happened and a follow up so horrendous against Sweden that we wish we could forget it did. Surely this must be the case, because the team’s 0-0 draw against lovers of the early concession South Africa cannot be the work of reigning world champions. Irrespective, Japan plods onto the quarter finals having registered a set of group appearances with about as much promise as Junichi Inamoto’s mercifully short-lived Arsenal career. Last time we mention Arsenal today. Promise.
Having exercised its voodoo curse on Brazil, and Marta in particular, after the first match, The Sportist has now jinxed France with its praise after the last round, seeing Les Bleus cut their goal average to a pathetic 2.66 per game in a 1-0 victory over Colombia. We can only assume that this is merely a French tactic designed to confuse their quarter final opponents, Sweden, against whom they will no doubt hammer home a minimum of 17 goals to maintain this columnist’s conservative estimate of a high-thousands goal tally come the close of the tournament.
New Zealand’s women finally recorded their first win of the tournament with a relatively untroubled 3-1 victory over Cameroon, with the Kiwis coasting at 3-0 before Gabrielle Onguene’s late consolation for the African team at least ensured her team would return home without a donut in the goals scored column.
Sweden and Canada, meanwhile, played out a thrilling 2-2 draw, with the Canadians coming back from 2-0 down to secure both teams a place in the quarter finals later this week.
The complex mathematics of the women’s draw meant that, in another blow to global communism, North Korea were sent packing as the worst 3rd placed team in the group stages following their 1-0 defeat to favourites USA. Abby Wambach’s goal from Alex Morgan’s assist proved enough for an already-qualified US, who join Team GB in demonstrating a perfect Group stage record, will meet New Zealand for a place in the semi-finals – and a potential match up with the hosts.
The Sportist has never particularly liked ‘goodbyes’, but sadly the time has come to wave off South Africa, North Korea and Cameroon from the London 2012 games. Each has given the tournament memories that will live long, whether it be in SA’s first game stunner from Portia Modise, the flag-screw-up-political-strop from North Korea or Cameroon’s noble efforts to make Brazil look like genuine world beaters.
In fact, we hates goodbyes so very much that it refuses to end on one. So to break an earlier promise, here’s one more mention of Arsenal and Team GB’s star of the games so far, Steph Houghton – courtesy of OptaJoe on Twitter:
“3 – Steph Houghton has scored more goals at the Olympics than she did in her previous two seasons combined at Arsenal (2). Surprise”
Women’s Quarter Final Draw
Team GB vs Canada
USA vs New Zealand
Sweden vs France
Brazil vs Japan
Image from http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2012/jul/31/london-2012-usa-north-korea-report (thanks!)