26 Jul 2012

Football Ferns lose Olympic opener

6:02 pm on 26 July 2012

The New Zealand women's football team has been beaten 1-0 by Great Britain at the opening event of the London Olympics.

Playing in front of a crowd of about 35,000 at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium, the Football Ferns struggled against the hosts, who dominated much of the play in their Group E match on Wednesday.

Great Britain had several opportunities to score in the first half - but it was not until the 64th minute that Steph Houghton found the back of the net off a free kick.

New Zealand had several opportunities to equalise, but Great Britain's defence was too strong.

The Football Ferns' best chance at a goal came when striker Sarah Gregorius got a lucky break 18 minutes from time, however she shot the ball straight at the British goalkeeper.

The New Zealanders created two good scoring opportunities in the second half and coach Tony Readings says they can take some positives out of the performance against the higher-ranked hosts.

"We felt we did enough to get something out of the game, and we're playing against one of the best teams in the world. For large chunks, we were the better team - we had some good chances that we didn't take.

"When we boiled it down, it's just another game of football - and one that we wanted to get three points from. We're pretty disappointed we didn't get something from the game."

Readings told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report after the match it was great to be part of a special occasion.

"It's always really proud when we represent New Zealand - but to be doing that at the Olympics and at the first event has made that extra special for us."

About 35,000 spectators turned out, which was also the first competitive match the British team had ever played. Readings says he could hear the New Zealand supporters making noise behind him - although the rest of the crowd drowned them out a bit.

Though the Games will not be officially opened until Saturday, the football tournament includes 16 men's and 12 women's teams and is too long to be accommodated within the Olympic timeframe.

The Football Ferns' next match is against group favourites Brazil on Saturday, while the New Zealand men's side - the Olywhites - play Belarus on Thursday.

Wrong Korea flag raised

There were red faces for organisers after the South Korea flag was incorrectly displayed on a giant screen before kick-off between North Korea and Colombia on Wednesday.

The start of the match was delayed for about an hour after the North Koreans walked off the pitch at Glasgow's Hampden Park stadium.

North Korea went on to win the Group G pool match 2-0.

Hampden Park media manager Andy Mitchell says a full apology has been made to the team and to the North Korean National Olympic Committee for the mistake.

First round results

In other results on Wednesday: Group E favourites Brazil opened their campaign with a 5-0 win over Cameroon, Japan beat Canada 2-1, the United States beat France 4-2 while Sweden dispatched South Africa 4-1.