Team GB women out to kick off London 2012 Olympics in style
To Hope Powell's Great Britain team falls the honour of getting the ball rolling in the 2012 Olympics; literally, since this is the women's football tournament.
There are a number of oddities about a historic occasion: the kick-off for GB against New Zealand at 4pm today is more than 48 hours before the official opening ceremony; the city is Cardiff not London; and it will be the first time a GB women's side has taken the field for a competitive game. But then Olympics football has always been a strange beast.
For all the distinctly mixed feelings in Wales and Scotland about football's Team GB, Cardiff and Glasgow will stage matches as football takes the Games of the XXXth Olympiad furthest and widest. The reason for starting so early is to allow adequate rest periods, the women's competition also involves quarter-finals even though there are only 12 teams, divided into three groups. To that end, two of the third-placed teams will make up the last eight, which Powell hopes will not be necessary in GB's case from Group E (the men's groups are A-D, the women's E-G). "Obviously we want to go as far as we can, a podium finish if possible," said Powell. "First we have to get out of the group and if we play well and have a little good fortune, who knows?"
Last year's World Cup provides a useful form guide, especially as there are no age restrictions in either tournament for women. Japan won it by beating the United States in a penalty shoot-out. Sweden and France were the beaten semi-finalists, England having gone out on penalties in the quarter-final (sound familiar?). Great Britain should theoretically be stronger than Powell's England team, although two Scots are the only non-Englishwomen in the squad of 18, which no longer includes the former captain Faye White but still has six Arsenal Ladies.
Brazil – who the British side meet at Wembley next Tuesday – and Cameroon make up Group E and play immediately after tomorrow's match in a double-header expected to attract around 40,000. That will be a record for a modern women's match in Britain, which will then be broken for the game against Brazil. The Brazilians, like their male counterparts, are regarded as strong in attack, less so in defence.
What will definitely change is the mould of women's Olympic football. In the last three competitions, remarkably, the medals have gone to the US, Brazil and Germany in that order. This time, unusually for any major international tournament, there is no German presence.
Apple has been hit by complaints about the 1.1GB download
Liam Neeson's Downton dreams
Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage
Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour
Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason
Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama
Bayern Munich vs Manchester City: Five things we learnt from the Allianz Arena
Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal player ratings: How did Ozil and Welbeck do in Germany?
Colombian women's cycling team kit that makes wearer appear naked is branded 'unacceptable' by UCI president
Bayern Munich vs Manchester City player ratings: Joe Hart? Thomas Muller? Jerome Boateng? Who was the star man?
Gareth Bale has his car kicked by angry Real Madrid fans after refusing to stop for autographs
- 2 Scottish independence: Five reasons Salmond is secretly hoping for a 'No' vote
- 3 Isis plan to 'behead random member of the public' in Sydney thwarted by Australian police
- 4 Scottish independence: Andy Murray backs Yes campaign in eleventh hour decision
- 5 Have you heard about the film Singapore has banned its people from watching? Well, you have now
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
The political class is doing what Hitler couldn’t – destroying Britain
Scottish independence: Nationalist leader Jim Sillars threatens pro-union companies with 'day of reckoning' after independence
Portuguese academic says British are 'filthy, violent and drunk'
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'