After such electrifying group stage performances, Hope Powell’s team never got to grips with their quarter-final as Canada secured a deserved win and a trip to Old Trafford to meet the United States on Monday. Jonelle Filingo and Christine Sinclair got the first-half goals and, in truth, it should have been more. It means that if Britain is to register its first Olympic football medal since 1912, Stuart Pearce’s men’s team, who face South Korea in the last eight tonight, will have to do it. These have been a heady few days for the women’s game and they fully deserved the standing ovation they got at the end.
Tuesday’s win over Brazil at Wembley had taken it to a level that had never previously been reached, to the extent that last night’s encounter was being viewed by some as nothing more than a mere stepping stone towards a last four showdown with another of the game’s superpowers. That assessment obscured the fact Canada are ranked seventh in the world, have been in camp for three months following the collapse of their domestic league and, crucially, had already played at Coventry twice. The absence of key woman Kelly Smith through injury didn’t help either. Brazil also crashed out as they lost 2-0 to Japan at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.
Meanwhile, men’s coach Pearce believes being part of the Olympics has helped his side avoid being burdened with the sort of expectations that have hampered England at major tournaments. Pearce was assistant to former England manager Fabio Capello at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, when the Three Lions crumbled under the weight of expectation with a string of poor displays. But Pearce is enjoying a more successful major tournament experience with Team GB, who play South Korea at the Millennium Stadium tonight after topping Group A thanks to Wednesday’s 1-0 win over Uruguay. He believes the sheer size of the Olympics and the number of sports taking place is allowing them to grow into the tournament without the full glare of the spotlight being upon them.
“I think it has helped us,” he said. “There has been a level slant in the expectations on this team. Probably the expectation should be like that with England in some ways. It’s been good to keep our heads under the radar.”