Houghton goal puts Powell's women on the crest of a wave
Great Britain 1 Brazil 0
Every Olympic Games has its moments of record-shattering achievement and Great Britain's women carved their own piece of history last night on a landmark occasion for the sport.
Defeating Brazil was a significant moment in itself as it confirmed their unlikely status as Group E winners and set up a meeting with Canada on Friday at the Ricoh Arena.
They deserve so much more than to be sent to Coventry. This was an inspired display against the fifth-best team in the world before a Wembley crowd of 70,584, which is comfortably the biggest ever attendance for a women's international in the UK and less than 6,000 short of the Olympic record set in 1996 by the United States, where the sport has far greater resonance.
There is a purity, energy and entertainment value to Great Britain's team that is rapidly gaining them admirers. Winning helps, too.
The remarkable atmosphere inside Wembley had seemingly reached an impressive crescendo at kick-off only to go up a notch 92 seconds when Great Britain got off to the perfect start.
Brazil failed to clear their lines from a corner, giving Karen Carney the opportunity to find Steph Houghton and the Arsenal defender showed great composure to round goalkeeper Andreia and fire the ball home from an acute angle. It was Houghton's third goal in as many matches for Hope Powell's team.
Brazil looked shaken but recovered their poise to force two presentable chances of their own but both fell to Cristiane, who was unable to convert either.
With every forward pass cheered to the rafters, Great Britain were determined to seize the initiative and Cristiane atoned in defence with a vital interception denying captain Casey Stoney the chance to meet Carney's tempting cross at the back post.
Carney, Kelly Smith and Kim Little were pulling the strings in midfield as Great Britain maintained their intensity and, importantly, their advantage until half-time.
After the break, Eniola Aluko was clipped in the penalty area by Francielle when through on goal, yet referee Carol Anne Chenard only deemed the challenge worthy of a yellow card and not the red it deserved.But Smith failed to convert the spot-kick, meaning the game was left on a knife edge as it entered the final half hour.
Both sides threatened but Brazil were never able to exert any sustained pressure, leaving Great Britain to celebrate a famous win.
The United States – who have won three of the last four Olympic titles – lie in wait as possible semi-finalists.
But for now Great Britain are riding the crest of a wave.
Great Britain Bardsley; A Scott, Stoney, Bradley, Houghton; Carney (F Williams, 84), Asante, J Scott, Aluko (Yankey 63); Little, Smith (White 84) Substitutes not used Brown, Rafferty, R Williams, Susi.
Brazil Andreia; Maurine (Daiane, 46), Erika, Renata, Bruna (Aline, 46); Thais Guedes, Ester (Grazielle, 72), Cristiane; Marta, Rosana, Francielle. Substitutes not used Barbara, Fabiana, Formiga, Danielli.
Referee C Chenard (Canada)
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