Stephanie Houghton has played down the chances of Great Britain winning a medal in women’s football on the back of their perfect record in the competition.
Hope Powell’s side will play a quarter-final against Canada in Coventry on Friday after a hard-fought win in front of the highest-ever crowd for a women’s match in the United Kingdom.
Arsenal defender Houghton scored the only goal after just 92 seconds to send 70,584 supporters into celebration at Wembley as Brazil, ranked four places higher than Britain at fifth in the world rankings, were unable to respond.
The growing empathy between fans and players has been palpable as women’s football has revelled in the spotlight, but Houghton insists it is too early to contemplate a podium finish. “We can’t start thinking about medals yet,” she said. “We’ve got a massive game on Friday and that has to be the main focus. We are really happy to get three wins and qualify.
“Of course you dream about it — you are not going to come to an Olympics and think ‘oh, I don’t really want to win a medal’. But you’ve got to be professional and focus on the next game — we can’t get carried away as we haven’t achieved what we want to yet.
“I can’t tell you how amazing it was to run out in front of 70,000 people. We just decided to enjoy it at the end [with a lap of honour] and I think we deserved it for three great performances over the last six days. We have got to go and thank the fans because they need to see how much we appreciate their support and how they helped us so much after the last week.”
Houghton’s goal, from an acute angle after clever work from Karen Carney, was her third in as many matches – which is a remarkable haul for a player who had previously scored only two in as many years at club level.
Britain’s resilience has been impressive throughout their run and they once again defended well, with goalkeeper Karen Bardsley yet to concede during the tournament.
Victory over Brazil is a huge boost to their hopes, but by finishing top of the group they are likely to face a possible semi-final against the USA, who are the top-ranked side and have won three of the last four Olympic titles.
Japan coach Norio Sasaki admitted he instructed his team not to try to win their final match against South Africa, which means the world champions avoid USA with a theoretically easier route to the final.
Houghton’s caution is consequently understandable, but Great Britain’s performances to date are creating justifiable optimism.