Britain enjoyed the finest result in their brief history as a women’s soccer nation as they beat female soccer superpowers Brazil 1-0 to advance to the quarter-finals on Tuesday.
In front of a crowd of more than 70,000 at Wembley Stadium in London, Stephanie Houghton, who has scored in all Britain’s three matches in the tournament, gave the hosts a dream start when, in the second minute, she rounded goalkeeper Andreia for what turned out to be the game’s only goal.
However, Andreia ensured Brazil stayed in the match with a penalty save early in the second half of the Group E clash.
Brazil’s Francielle tripped Eni Aluko as she bore down on goal and there was no doubt about the award of a spot-kick, but Andreia guessed correctly by diving to her left to parry a penalty from Kelly Smith that was too close to the goalkeeper.
However, the save failed to inspire Brazil to an equalizer and Britain, in their first Olympic women’s tournament, now face Canada for a place in the semi-finals in Coventry on Friday.
“The whole day has just been fantastic,” Houghton said. “It’s unbelievable and amazing. To play in front of 70,000 people, you couldn’t dream of a better day.”
As for her goal, Houghton added: “I thought the goalkeeper would get there first, but I just got it past her and then hit it as fast as I could.”
Earlier, World Cup winners Japan advanced into the last eight after a goalless draw with South Africa in Cardiff, Wales.
Striker Kozue Ando and midfielder Asuna Tanaka wasted the best chances for Japan, who are now set for a quarter-final clash with Brazil.
For South Africa, the draw was their first point of the Games after they had twice been well-beaten in their previous Group F matches.
Elsewhere, defending champions the US set up a last-eight clash with New Zealand after a 1-0 win over North Korea.
Abby Wambach scored the only goal of the game in front of a crowd of nearly 30,000 at Old Trafford, the home of Manchester United.
“It was a classic three points,” said Wambach, whose 25th-minute goal was her 141st in 185 international appearances.
The US lost to Japan in last year’s World Cup final and Wambach added: “We want to go all the way. That’s the goal.”
France also advanced to the quarter-finals, where they face Sweden, after Elodie Thomis’ early goal proved decisive in a 1-0 win over Colombia.
“We’re really happy to play in a quarter-final, seeing as it’s the first time a female French side is competing in the Olympics,” said Louisa Necib, nicknamed the “female Zinedine Zidane.”
Canada went through to the last eight following a 2-2 draw with Sweden at St James’ Park, the home ground of Newcastle United.
New Zealand, too, are in the knockout stage after a 3-1 Group E win over Cameroon in Coventry.
The Kiwis got through despite losing their first two matches, as one of the two best third-placed sides along with Canada.