They may not be in a position to defy Betfair Premier League tips, but Team GB’s women’s football team could be on course to a medal finish after a convincing victory over New Zealand in their first match of the 2012 Olympic Games.
Steph Horton’s superb curling free kick was enough to confirm victory and surely propel GB to the quarter-final stage.
Manager Hope Powell’s side beat their Group E rivals in a tense match at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium, and their performance has rocketed GB’s expectations of winning a medal on home soil.
Powell’s side controlled play for large parts of the game in front of over 24,000 spectators.
The boss will have been pleased to see Jill Scott performing at her best: holding the ball up well to bring teammates into the game.
At the other end, goalkeeper Karen Bardsley marshalled her defence well, and came to the rescue to block New Zealand’s Sarah Gregorious one-on-one.
But plaudits must go to GB’s attacking stars, most notably Eniola Aluko and Anita Asante.
Aluko was impervious in Great Britain’s forward third, cutting in from the wing and distributing across the midfield. Her anticipation cleared up many loose balls in the centre of the park, giving GB a starting block to push forward.
But the star of the show was undoubtedly Asante, who came desperately close to scoring on three occasions.
The midfielder saw her first headed effort rebound off the stump of the post, with a contested corner flying narrowly over the crossbar and a final diving header glanced wide.
The Gothenburg FC star’s commitment and poor luck showed just how much more there is to come from Hope Powell’s side.
Almost certain to qualify for the knock-out stages, Team GB are in a promising position and can only improve from here as the tournament progresses.
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Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Great Britain’s football coach Stuart Pearce has selected what he calls his “strongest squad” ahead of the London 2012 Olympic Games. Claiming the squad is chosen on pure footballing reasons, Pearce has drawn together a group of what is apparently the best young stars Great Britain has to offer.
Many won’t argue with the decision to include the likes of Ryan Giggs, Craig Bellamy, Aaron Ramsey and Tom Cleverley. A mix of experience and youthful passion is a prerequisite for all Olympic men’s football teams that have to include 15 men under the age of 23.
Yet Team GB’s squad appears lightweight and somewhat vulnerable compared to rivals Brazil, who take the Olympic Games as a serious stage in the development of young talent. Like Argentina in 2004 and 2008, Brazil have named a team of stars for their gold-medal attempt in London this summer, something reflect in their status as favourites in the Betfair Olympics Football markets.
Their three overage players boast a wealth of talent. Chelsea target Hulk will offer an imposing presence up front, while defenders Thiago Silva (PSG) and Marcelo (Real Madrid) will guide the back four through the tournament. Neymar, the young Santos starlet, already has nine goals for the senior Brazil team, and Milan’s Pato has all but established himself as well.
Compare the talent of Silva, Neymar, Marcelo and Hulk to the big-name players in Team GB’s squad, and you soon get the idea of where both sides stand coming into the Olympics. Granted, Brazil haven’t played a major tournament like Euro 2012 a month before the Games, but nevertheless the stature of their squad is staggering compared to Pearce’s young hopefuls.
Betfair Football pundits expect Brazil to treat the Olympics like any other major tournament, and come out with all pistons firing come their opener against Egypt on 26 July.
Posted by Nick Walsh at 9:38 AM
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Leeds United boss Neil Warnock looks set to add another midfielder to his squad with news that the Yorkshire club has tabled a bid for SK Brann midfielder Rudolph Austin.
With former Derby midfielder Paul Green already in the ranks, Warnock is searching to rebuild a new spine in order to push for Premier League promotion this season. Having already trailed Austin when at QPR, the Leeds boss is evidently assured the Jamaican has what it takes to bring top-flight football back to West Yorkshire.
Austin has proven his ability at Brann, playing over 80 games for the Norwegian outfit in four seasons, and should fit in well at the Yorkshire club. With Michael Brown rapidly ageing and the departure of Adam Clayton to Huddersfield Town, there is a gap in the midfield that Rudolph should make his own.
More likely to be used in defensive positions than a box-to-box midfielder, Rudolph would play the role Brown did last season: sitting in front of the back four offering added protection.
He is a perfect Neil Warnock player: tough-tackling, determined, and not afraid to get in the tick of it. Five bookings and a red card after just 11 Norwegian Tippeliga games this season is all the evidence needed to show his fight.
Warnock has achieved seven promotions in his managerial career, a lot of them coming down to fighting spirit. He tried to inject this attitude into the Leeds team last season, a method that failed catastrophically as Leeds picked up nine red cards and 81 bookings.
But there is a difference between physicality and dirty play, and if Rudolph can respect this difference, he could be the key player in Warnock’s promotion campaign.
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Posted by Nick Walsh at 9:49 AM