Misfiring Kelly Smith is Hope Powell's only concern about Team GB's women's football team

 

After all the excitement of Tuesday's epic victory over Brazil in front of the biggest crowd to watch a women's match in the United Kingdom, the greatest problem facing Hope Powell's Great Britain squad at Coventry tonight would appear to be over-confidence.

In Canada they face a team who failed to get beyond the group stage at the World Cup last year and did so here only as the third-placed team in their section. They came from 2-0 down to draw the final game with Sweden at St James' Park, which was a special day for their English coach John Herdman, a Tynesider who grew up watching Newcastle United from the Gallowgate End.

"I think the girls stepped up," he said of that performance. "They are showing they're moving forward and are ready for the quarter-finals. I thought we started the best I have seen Canada play."

In Melissa Tancredi, who scored both their goals, the Canadians have the tournament's leading scorer. She has been on target in every game, starting with the 2-1 defeat by Japan and then putting her team on the way to their 3-0 win over South Africa. Her closest rival in the charts is Britain's Steph Houghton, Powell's remarkable goalscoring left-back, who is currently being teased by other members of the squad about winning the tournament's Golden Boot.

If there is one concern other than over-confidence it is that no British forward has a goal to her name. Apart from Houghton's winners against New Zealand and Brazil, and her fierce drive against Cameroon, the only other scorers have been the captain Casey Stoney, who poked in a set-piece at the far post, and Everton's Jill Scott, who finished a delightful move against Cameroon by knocking in Kim Little's back-heel.

The official tournament football programme understandably highlighted Kelly Smith as "star player". But in continuing her recovery from injury she has yet to improve on extraordinary career statistics that include 100 goals in 112 games for Arsenal Ladies alone.

For England, she has a century of caps and 45 goals. Her big chance so far in this tournament was the award of a penalty when Britain led 1-0 against Brazil but the goalkeeper made a fine save.

It has been a chequered career for Smith, including self-confessed depression and drink problems, but at the age of 33, 16 years after her international debut, the prospect of an Olympic medal would provide a highlight.

For that to happen, assuming they get past Canada, Britain would probably need either to beat the United States in Monday's semi-final or, if they lost that, win the bronze medal match next week.

At one point in her career in the US, where she played for four clubs, Smith said "Women's football is a joke". Helping Britain to another win tonight in front of a near-capacity crowd will do much to end that assessment.

Having been pushed into second place by Britain, Brazil play Japan, who – a little oddly – opted not to try too hard in their draw against South Africa as they wished to avoid being in the same section of the draw as the favourites, the US. That plan will come unstuck if they do not beat Brazil in Cardiff this evening.

Had Japan won against South Africa and finished top of Group F they would have played France at Hampden Park, a task that now falls to Sweden.

The other match at Newcastle this afternoon has the US as firm favourites to beat New Zealand, who finished third in Britain's group.

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