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Jul 31, 2012

GB beat Brazil, quarter line-up complete

Steph Houghton secured arguably the finest result in the history of UK women's football as Hope Powell's Great Britain side stormed to a 1-0 victory over Brazil at Wembley to send them through to the Olympic quarter-finals as Group E winners.

There have been more significant achievements but even Football Association officials privately conceded that against such formidable opposition, in front of a British record 70,584 crowd, there has been no better evening.

In pure statistical terms, Houghton's third goal of the tournament meant Kelly Smith could afford to miss a second-half penalty and GB still managed to avoid a last eight meeting with World Cup winners Japan.

Instead they must play Canada, no slouches themselves as the seventh-ranked nation in the world, in Coventry on Friday.

The goal came as, struggling to clear an early corner, Brazil's lethargic defence allowed Karen Carney to chase down a loose ball, turn and then thread a pass through a posse of opposition players.

Houghton read it brilliantly, nipped past Andreia and from the tightest of angles, rolled in. It was Houghton's third goal of the competition and the noise that greeted it was amazing. On the touchline, Powell's first reaction was telling. Hands down. Calm down.

In the group's other game, New Zealand recorded a 3-1 win against bottom-placed Cameroon at the City of Coventry Stadium to book a place in the last eight - despite losing their opening two games to Brazil and Great Britain - as one of the two best third-placed sides along with Canada.

New Zealand dominated the opening half and Cameroon goalkeeper Annette Ngo Ndom produced a fine save to turn Katie Hoyle's swerving shot against the post. Annalie Longo had a close-range attempt deflected over the bar before the Kiwi pressure finally paid off after 43 minutes.

A deep corner from Ria Percival was headed home at the far post by captain Rebecca Smith for her side's first goal in the tournament. New Zealand doubled their lead three minutes into the second half.

Rosie White took the ball wide of Ngo Ndom and a low cross was turned into her own net by Cameroon defender Augustine Ejangue. White was again the creator after 62 minutes when her cross was headed in by Sarah Gregorious.

Gabrielle Onguene scored a consolation goal after 75 minutes but Cameroon finished without a point from their three games and conceded 11 goals in the process.

Abby Wambach made it three wins out of three for reigning Olympic champions United States in this year's tournament with the defining moment of their 1-0 victory over North Korea.

Wambach scored her 141st goal in her 185th appearance for her country in front of a 29,522 crowd at Manchester United's Old Trafford.

It was enough to guarantee the United States top spot in Group G, and a quarter-final clash with New Zealand at Newcastle's St James' Park on Friday.

The first half was comprehensively one sided for Swedish coach Pia Sundhage's team against a North Korean outfit hammered 5-0 by France in their previous game. The opener when it came was well crafted, with Carli Lloyd feeding Morgan in the area who turned inside her marker to lay the ball off for Wambach to beat goalkeeper O Chang-ran from seven yards.

Wambach later forced a good save from O and also saw another effort hit the left-hand upright before the break but, beyond that, the second half was only notable for Choe Mi-gyong's 81st-minute dismissal for two yellow cards in five minutes.

Elodie Thomis fired France into an Olympic quarter-final showdown with Sweden after a narrow 1-0 victory over Colombia.

The Lyon winger's early strike was enough to claim the points, although a resilient display by keeper Sandra Sepulveda and a second-half Colombian fightback ensured the result remained in doubt until the final whistle.

France, inspired by the classy Louisa Necib, took the lead with just five minutes gone when the pacy Thomis got in behind full-back Natalia Ariza and calmly chipped the advancing Sepulveda.

But had it not been for the Colombia keeper, Ricardo Rozo's side would have been dead and buried long before half-time. She pulled off a string of fine saves, turning Thomis' 26th-minute shot on to the bar and then somehow clawing out Gaetane Thiney's close-range effort five minutes later, although she needed the help of the woodwork on two further occasions.

Striker Melissa Tancredi claimed a double as Canada came from behind to snatch a precious 2-2 draw with Sweden to ensure that both teams go through to the quarter-finals.

John Herdman's side trailed 2-0 to goals from Marie Hammarstrom and Sofia Jakobsson as the Swedes got off to a flying start, but Tancredi reduced the deficit before the break and then claimed a later equaliser.

It took brave blocks by keeper Hedvig Lindahl and Nilsson to deny Tancredi and then Jonelle Filigno a 48th-minute equaliser, but Tancredi squared it seven minutes from time with a header from Christine Sinclair's cross - as Canada qualified as one of the best third-place teams.

South Africa battled their way to a first Olympic point while Japan advanced to the quarter-finals as group runners-up after a 0-0 draw the Millennium Stadium.

Banyana Banyana had been convincingly beaten in their two previous games, but a committed defensive display saw them upset the odds and end their campaign with a draw against the world champions.

Striker Kozue Ando and midfielder Asuna Tanaka wasted the best opportunities for Japan, who will meet Britain in the quarter-finals if Hope Powell's side do not beat Brazil on Tuesday night.

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