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Off and rolling

Stephanie Houghton (left) scored the only goal of the game.

CARDIFF – Britain won the first competitive contest of the London Olympics when a free kick from Stephanie Houghton gave them a 1-0 victory over New Zealand in the opening match of the women’s soccer tournament at the Millennium Stadium today.

Not only was the match the first event of the Games, it was also the first competitive match the British team had ever played and Houghton earned her place in women’s soccer folklore with her 64th minute shot.

Britain has not competed in Olympic soccer since the men’s team failed to qualify for the 1972 Munich Games because Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland fear for their independent status within world governing body FIFA if they allow their players to compete for a united British side.

As a consequence Britain did not enter the Olympics from 1976, but as hosts, they were obliged to enter a team for these Games ensuring this match a certain historic significance.Much of the action on the pitch will not live long in the memory.

In another encounter Brazil cruised past Cameroon 5-0 to open their Group E campaign. Jorge Barcellos’s team raced into a 2-0 lead through a Francielle free-kick and a header from Renata Costa.

Marta scored a second-half penalty after she had been clumsily fouled by Bebey Beyene before Cristiane slotted home from a tight angle.

The losing Olympic finalists in 2004 and 2008 made it 5-0 late on when Marta struck from close range.The emphatic nature of Brazil’s victory ensured that they finished the opening day of Olympic action top of their group on goal difference.

It might have been even more emphatic but Ester shot wide in the opening half and impressive substitute Cristiane missed with a spectacular over-head kick close to the final whistle.

In other matches today the USA beat France 4-2 and Canada and Japan drew 2-2.

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