Caroline Weir snatches late equaliser to secure Team GB top spot
The home nations football associations might be at loggerheads off the field but on it, Team GB are producing a rich Olympic blend.
Led by Scot Caroline Weir, Britain came back to draw 1-1 with Canada and make sure of top spot in Group E.
With it came the chance to avoid Brazil in the last eight, no need to travel more than 300km up the coast to Rifu, and an hour’s extra rest.
All fine margins that Baroness Sue Campbell and those in boardrooms rooting for the GB Football experiment to succeed, wanted to maximise.
All suggest Tokyo’s typhoon winds are blowing in the direction of an Olympic football medal – an intoxicating prospect, in this summer of all summers.
Sam Kerr’s Australia await on Friday, with either Sweden or Japan to follow in the semi-finals.
“I believe strongly in this team,” said astute Norwegian head coach Hege Riise.
“Great teams always find a way to come back, and we did. We’ve showed how we perform in all of our group games.
“There will always be things you want to improve but we’ve played three games against three good opponents and we’re performing better and better.
“It’s a new team, we haven’t been playing together very long but overall we look strong and I’m confident.”
The prospect of fielding a Team GB was met by grudging approval at best and open opposition at worst by the Scottish and Welsh FAs.
When the politics are stripped away, you have some of the best players from the three nations in increasingly ominous concert.
Metronomic Welsh midfielder Sophie Ingle is one of four ever-presents across the group stage and Scottish dynamo Kim Little a key cog in midfield.
Caroline Weir grabbed the all-important equaliser
But Weir has been the class act in the Olympic arena, animating a flat contest against Canada and passages of play when temperatures have soared and tempo dropped.
“We haven’t really had a test before this tournament, and will we be tested in these games,” said the 26-year-old.
“Australia are a top team, they’ve done well in their group and got a big result against USA.
“We know it’s going to be tough and to be a massive game. The first job done was to get out of the group and we’ve done that.”
Expect an aerial assault from the Matildas, who stubbornly held off-colour USA to a goalless draw to seal their third Olympic quarter-final.
Centre-backs Millie Bright and Steph Houghton, who will come back into the side, will have to contend with long throws and duels with Kerr’s prowess in the air.
The Chelsea star scored three headed goals in Australia’s first two games and appeared to pick up a knock in the final stages of the USA draw.
Team GB have their own attacking hot hand in Ellen White and the sight of Fran Kirby on the field in the closing stages against Canada was good for the soul.
The men couldn’t quite manage it – perhaps this team can.
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