Team GB’s women’s football squad will be kicking off the 2012 London Olympics today, with a match against New Zealand at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium.
While the official Opening Ceremony does not take place until Friday, Team GB football coach Hope Powell and captain Casey Stoney will aim to get the Games off to a spectacular start with – fingers crossed – a win against New Zealand’s Football Ferns, who the England team beat 2-1 in last year’s Women’s Football World Cup.
Speaking to BBC News ahead of the match, which takes place at 4pm today, Powell was feeling confident but loathe to speculate about the team’s chances against the Ferns:
"It's our first time as Team GB and you will be nervous,” said Powell, who is also coach of the England women's team. “But I'm sure they will rise to the occasion."
"I would expect New Zealand to be as tough as Sweden," she continued. "We know that they are very fit and physical, and that they will run for 90 minutes."
Team GB recently drew 0-0 against Sweden in their final warm-up match last Friday at Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium, and the Group E squad are set to play Cameroon and the heavily-tipped Brazil in forthcoming matches on Saturday and Tuesday respectively. The first two teams in each group will qualify for a quarter-final place, while two teams finishing third will also claim a place in the final eight.
No matter how Team GB do today, at the very least the match - unhindered by other Olympics sporting fixtures - will shine the spotlight on the quality of women’s football.
"It is the first event, which is fantastic for us - I hope it will be a real positive," added Powell. "It puts women's football out there, puts it on the map and hopefully will showcase the sport."
What do you think? Will the timing of Team GB's match ahead of the official Olympic opening be a help or a hindrance in raising the profile of women's football? Tell us your thoughts on Twitter @StylistMagazine or in the comments section below
Additional images: Rex