Olympics give women´s football a stage to shine

Women´s football struggles to get the attention that their male counterparts enjoy.

Indeed, it is a seeming truism that the women’s game can never really match the men’s. But what they can do, is reduce the gap between the popularity of the two. That is the challenge now for women’s football with the Olympic Games giving them a superb opportunity to do just that.

The start of the Olympic football yesterday was a superb start for the women. They have been helped by the intelligent scheduling of London 2012, who, by putting the women’s football on two days before the opening ceremony of the Games and a day before the men, ensured the eyes of the world were watching as Britain kicked off against New Zealand. Even had the women’s action kicked off after the men, that would not have happened.

And so it was a great platform from which to build as the competition got underway, and the women’s game could not have asked for a better start. Britain played well but could only find one dramatic second half goal to edge out New Zealand. But the best entertainment was elsewhere.

The United States, reigning and three times Olympic champions, fell 2-0 down to France early on in their game at Hampden Park. They came roaring back, levelling it at 2-2 before half time, and then struck twice more in the second period to round off what had been a superb match.

Brazil laid down a marker of their own as they thumped Cameroon 5-0 with the flair and imagination one expects of the men’s team. Whilst world champions Japan played out an entertaining 2-1 win over Canada in their opener.

Sweden treated the world to a display of fast attacking football as they overran South Africa in their game. 3-0 up at half time despite hitting the woodwork three times, Sweden were rampant. But then South Africa struck the goal of the day, Portia Modise scoring from near the half way line with a wonderful lob. Sweden scored again to win 4-1, but despite the one sided scoreline, it was a feast to watch. And then there was the last game, North Korea v Colombia. On the face of it, hardly one to excite, but then someone helpfully decided to put the South Korean flag next to the North Korean players, prompting diplomatic rows and the team to storm off, only to return an hour later.

That attracted the world’s attention before the North Koreans played out an impressive 2-0 win, to cap a superb first day of the Olympic sport thanks to the female footballers. Last year’s World Cup in Germany was a treat, with a thrilling record breaking finale as the US lost to Japan on penalties.

The quality has been impressive. Though there are more mistakes than in the men’s game, there is also perhaps more technique at the expense of physicality. The women certainly know how to shoot, that is for sure. This tournament has already seen plenty of evidence of the quality on show from the fairer sex. This Olympic tournament promises much and with it, a huge and welcome boost for women’s football if the action stays like this.