Hope Powell worried by Cameroon's pace and power
GB women's coach says 'off the cuff' opponents will prove a handful in Cardiff this evening
Hope Powell, the Great Britain women's coach, has warned of the speed and aggression of Cameroon ahead of her side's second match tonight in Cardiff, in which they will seek to build on the uplift in awareness created by their victory over New Zealand in the opening event of the Olympics.
"They are very aggressive, very quick, very direct," Powell said of women's football's 50th-ranked nation. "They have pace in every department, which we will have to contend with. They play somewhat off the cuff; they have a very unorthodox style. They rely heavily on pace, they're very powerful, very physical, so again we'll have to be at the races from the time the whistle blows to the very end. It will not be an easy encounter.
"If we win the game, we're on six points and it puts us in a very strong position. New Zealand play Brazil and they have to get something out of that game. It's still all to play for but our focus is to try to win the game."
Powell's players, who beat New Zealand 1-0 in Cardiff on Wednesday, are unaccustomed to publicity. Goalkeeper Rachel Brown, of Everton, found the first of her three FA Cup finals televised by UK Living and, although the women's game has moved on, it needs the boost of a successful campaign far more than Stuart Pearce's men's side. Powell knows the toughest challenge – Brazil, featuring their playmaker Marta, who have already beaten the Cameroon 5-0 – lies ahead. But she has allowed her players to savour the publicity attached to Steph Houghton's winning goal: "We laid out all the papers for the girls. I think [the coverage] is unprecedented. We've never experienced anything like that before – front page, back page, middle page, as the Americans say, it's awesome."
Brown said that Cameroon, whom the British players have not faced before tonight's game, are an unknown quantity but their record within Africa – runners-up in the continent's women's championship in 2002 and fourth in the subsequent three tournaments – underlines Powell's concerns.
The midfielder Anita Asante said the profile of the first match, being the Olympics' first action, carried pressure; the 27-year-old Gothenburg player literally kicked off the Games. "We were aware of all the outside factors and we found strategies to try and block that out and focus on the team and what we wanted to do," she explained.
"We were able to settle as the game progressed. It was good to get the first game out of the way and win the three points. We still have to push forward game by game. Our aim is to get out of the group. We have to focus on what we do and we're really confident in our strategy.
"After [my first kick] happened I thought, 'Wow, I'm here'. I didn't do anything elaborate, I just rolled the ball forward. It's only after the event that you can really recognise how that feels and what that means."
Group E. Kick-off 5.15pm, Millennium Stadium (BBCi). Referee Hong Eun Ah (S Kor). Odds: Great Britain 1-5 Draw 5-1 Cameroon 14-1
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