Here comes the girls

Mike Miles brings us his adventures from the Olympics.

Like countless thousands of others I applied for Olympic tickets. The usual suspects: athletics, swimming, tennis, ladies beach volleyball. And what did I get…. Football at Old Trafford. This meant I didn’t get the chance to re-apply in subsequent ballots as I had got something. ….

But grumbles against LOGAC aside, the number of unsold football tickets across the country has been well documented, so for a football –fan at heart, here’s a chance to see some real football at a reasonable price.

There is a programme on Radio 4 called “I have never seen Star Wars.” The premise is that a “celebrity “is invited to see or do something that they have managed to avoid so far in life. Imagine Private Eye editor Ian Hislop buying a pair of jeans and you will get the flavour.

Well I have never been to a women’s football match, and this time around Team GB are fielding a women’s as well as a men’s team in the Olympic football tournament. They were down to play their second Group game against Cameroon at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. And what made for a more enticing prospect was that the preceding match set Brazil ladies against their New Zealand counterparts.

The last time I attended a game in Cardiff was to witness Irish side Leinster defeat Northampton Saints in the final of the Heineken Cup. That was in front of a full house, mostly made up of boisterous Irishmen. This was a much more sedate affair in front of another disappointingly low crowd. The official figure was 31,141, itself a combined total to take into account both games. I believe this number actually reflects the number of tickets sold rather than the actual number of people who turned up. Perhaps Locag have been taking a leaf out of Arsenal’s playbook, who were accused of the same practice last season.

First up, Brazil secured their quarter-final place with a hard-fought win over a hard-working, but limited New Zealand side. Though there were flashes of individual skills from the South Americans they flattered to deceive, and only scored their goal five minutes from the end through Cristianne, an effort as scrappy as much of the play that had preceded it.

One of the drawbacks about training it to Cardiff on a big-match day is that there are no seat reservations on returning trains. Getting on one at Cardiff Central station involves queuing and a judicious use of elbows. Curiously a similar scenario was in place for post-game on Saturday. I had no idea how many people had trained it down to justify such an operation, but I decided to forgo the pleasures of the second half and leg it for an earlier train.

Consequently I missed the third British goal eight minutes from time, which put the seal on Hop Powell’s team’s progress to the quarter finals.

They had already effectively ended a one-sided contest after 23 minutes when Everton’s Jill Scott scored their second goal. Cameroon were carved open by a wonderful move that would have graced any football pitch. Smith slipped the ball to Kim Little and she set up Scott for a clinical finish with a delightful backheel.

It must be said that Cameroon were generous opponents, very obliging in terms of their organization and marking,. Team GB had already taken the lead after 18 minutes when goalkeeper Ndom misjudged a free kick and Stoney prodded the ball home from virtually on the goal-line.

So its two games and two wins and Team GB need to beat Brazil at Wembley to finish top of the group. They have clearly enjoyed their time in Cardiff, regardless of the disappointing attendances.

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