Hope Powell's Team GB women welcome attention on biggest stage


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The Independent Online

The Team GB women's footballers are enjoying their new-found fame. After two victories, one routine against New Zealand, the other excellent against Cameroon, they are already into the quarter-finals of the tournament. Tonight the play their most prestigious game at their most prestigious stadium: Brazil at Wembley. Victory would win them Group E and might well grant an easier quarter-final.

Clearly, the stage is not daunting for Hope Powell's team. The Team GB coach said yesterday evening that the players are revelling in their new attention. "They absolutely love it," Powell said. "Sometimes, if we want to beat the traffic, we're trying to pull them away from people who want to take photos. They are enjoying the adulation and why not. They manage themselves very well. We want to be accessible."

While there is likely to be a larger crowd than they are used to at Wembley, Powell insisted the players would be comfortable out there. "We've played in China, the English players have, in front of 60,000, and also as England we've played a European final against Germany in a packed stadium, so we are used to large crowds," she explained. "What we are not used to is playing at home, at Wembley, in front of a large crowd. But the girls like it. It doesn't stifle them, it encourages them."

Brazil will be a fiercer opponent than New Zealand or Belarus but Powell is looking forward to facing one of the world's great football nations. "They are always there or thereabouts in major tournaments and the style in which they play is very similar to the [Brazilian] men," Powell said. "We are looking forward to the challenge and experience. The good thing is we are in the quarter-finals regardless and we are playing to get, for want of a better word, an easier path, but no game at this level is easy."

The whole experience so far has been unambiguously positive and Powell hopes it continues in future. "It's a unique and surreal experience and if you can't enjoy it as a player or a member of staff, you shouldn't really be in sport," she said.

"It's just mind-blowing. If we have the opportunity to be involved again, absolutely I would say yes. I know there was some debate and I am not involved in the politics of it, but I'm really pleased we are in it, and if the opportunity presented itself again, I would give it the thumbs-up."

The women's team attended the men's 3-1 defeat of the United Arab Emirates on Sunday evening, and Powell revealed how pleased they were to meet David Beckham and Prince William. "They got the chance to meet Beckham and the prince and take pictures and they wished us good luck," said Powell. "David sent me a few emails of good wishes before, which I passed on to the girls, although I'm not sure they believed me. And then to actually meet him, they were absolutely made up. I think they combed their hair about a thousand times."