'A lasting legacy'
Team GB Women v New Zealand
Olympic Games, London 2012
4pm, Wednesday 25 July
Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
Hope Powell hopes Wednesday’s landmark match against New Zealand will help catapult women’s football into the public’s consciousness like never before.
The Team GB Head Coach will take her charges to the Millennium Stadium for not only their opening group match of the Olympic Games but the very first event of London 2012.
This encounter takes place two days before the Opening Ceremony and with Cameroon’s game against Brazil coming straight after the Team GB game, this double-header should give the women’s game unprecedented oxygen on a global scale.
“For me personally it’s a great honour,” said Powell, “as I’m sure it is for the girls themselves and the staff involved.
“[To be involved in] the first game that actually kicks off the Olympics, I can’t express it really. I’m just really pleased that it’s happened that way. It will give us a lot of kudos, a lot of attention [because] there will be no other Olympic events on that day so it will give us a real opportunity to showcase the sport.
“Hopefully it will be a good game and everybody will have a greater appreciation of how good women’s football is. We have a responsibility and a great opportunity to [raise the profile of women’s football].
“It’s a real honour and a really good opportunity for us to hopefully leave a lasting legacy.”
Powell’s squad have been together since 8 July and have played one behind-closed doors game against South Africa, which they won 3-1, followed by last Friday’s 0-0 draw with Sweden at the Riverside Stadium.
Team GB have been in their Cardiff base since Saturday and have enjoyed four good-quality training sessions and a ‘familiarisation’ period on the Millennium Stadium pitch.
But ever since the final whistle sounded in Middlesbrough all eyes have been on New Zealand, against whom Powell led England to a 2-1 win at last year’s World Cup.
“They have done a lot of work in the last 12 months,” she said. “We played them as England in the World Cup and they were a tough proposition then. Since then they have vastly improved.
“They work really well throughout their units, their game is based on pace, aggressive pressure and they will run and run and run for 90 minutes plus. They have really tried to improve their game in all areas. Technically they are getting better all the time so the game will be challenging. We expect a tough encounter [because] in all areas they are quite strong.”
And far from making lavish predictions of glory, the Head Coach insists she, and her team, will be focussing on one game at a time.
“Everybody who is part of these Olympics has ambitions and you want to go as far as you possibly can – and that’s what people would generally consider a podium finish,” admitted Powell, who has a fully fit squad to choose from on Wednesday.
“We are no different, but the focus has to be getting out of the group. If you don’t achieve that you are never going to get to a podium. I’m not going to try and predict anything because every team wants to get out the group, every team wants to do well and get to the podium.
“For us the priority is to take each game as it comes, get out of the group and with good health and good fortune - if luck is on [our] side – [we] will progress [further]. Hopefully we will do well.”