Olympic Recap: Great Britain vs. Brazil
by Eleri Earnshaw
With so many variables potentially affecting the result of this game, one thing could be assumed – that it would be a good one.
Brazil and Team GB entered the match sitting atop Group E, with a maximum 6 points and fighting for top seed.
Brazil on paper presented a very different threat to that shown by Team GB’s previous opponents in this tournament; the very real threat of creativity, fluidity, and absolute quality on the ball. The familiar names of Marta, Cristiane and Rosana would be enough to make any coach or player heed caution.
There is a very big different between playing with caution and playing with alarm. Hope Powell’s side showed no sign of the latter as they took early control of the game through an excellent goal from Stephanie Houghton – now top goal scorer for Team GB having scored in every game as a left back.
The anticipated threat of Brazil never arrived. Their star players were dealt with comfortably and Brazil’s chances were largely limited to shots from outside the box in the first half. Instead, the threat on goal came from Team GB with Kelly Smith narrowly missing late in the first half from a superbly executed volley across goal.
Team GB settled into a marvelous rhythm as the first half continued, enjoying large spells of good, positive possession. They looked extremely organized and disciplined.
The simple commands of “stand her up” and “keep passing the ball” bellowed from Powell’s mouth as GB executed the simple yet very effective defensive plan – keep the ball in front of us, maintain a compact shape to deny penetrating passes and whatever you do, never, EVER dive in.
This proved enough to thoroughly disrupt and frustrate Brazil – without having to throw a right hook.
The second half started as the first ended – with Team GB full of beans and Brazil full of frustration and angst.
To give them credit, Brazil started to show glimpses of why so many of us predicted a tough game for Team GB. A dangerous ball into the box, inadvertently directed goal ward by Alex Scott and hitting the post before being cleared. Marta also garnered a shot from inside the box, which, shockingly was a rare sight today.
The 70,000 crowd at Wembley stadium seemed to infuse this Team GB performance today (not a bad home-field advantage!). Growing up in the UK, having played with and against these payers, I never thought I’d see the day that Wembley stadium hosted a crowd of 70, 000 to cheer on Team GB at the Olympics. But I have – and it’s bloody brilliant!
Some great interplay in and around the Brazil penalty area was rewarded when Eniola Aluko was brought down from behind. Apparently, a tackle from behind by the last defender to deny a goal scoring chance is no longer worthy of a red card. Nevertheless, yellow card and PK awarded for the reckless challenge, Kelly Smith stepped up to try to extend her teams lead.
The ensuring PK was saved to the keepers bottom left and Brazil were given a string of hope.
Another thing I never thought I’d hear myself say (but very glad I can) is that Team GB looked the more skillful and technically sound team throughout. They were able to close out the game with great intensity and were threatening the Brazil goal until the final whistle.
At the risk of sounding biased, I must say that I am disappointed by Brazil’s performance today. Perhaps this is fueled by my preconceived notions of the threat traditionally presented by Brazilian teams. Regardless of the majesty and brilliance that was missing from their game today, they lacked leadership, discipline and patience. Shake my head Brazil….shake my head.
Today’s game put to rest my doubts about Team GB. Their defensive shape and discipline, composure in possession and combination play in dangerous areas could challenge for a medal if they continue drum out this kind of performance.