LONDON (Reuters) - Reigning Olympic champions the United States will take on a revitalized New Zealand while hosts Britain face Canada in the quarter-finals of the women’s soccer competition after the completion of the group stage on Tuesday.
The U.S. and Britain were the only teams to qualify with maximum points while the other last eight-matches will see pre-tournament favorites Brazil play world champions Japan while Sweden and France meet in the opening quarter-final in Glasgow.
The women’s competition, which unlike the men’s is not age-group restricted, consisted of three first round groups with the top two qualifying along with the two best runners-up.
Britain, who have a women’s team in the Olympics for the first time, earned their most dazzling result since the squad got together for the first time three weeks ago when they beat Brazil 1-0 with a second minute Steph Houghton goal at Wembley.
A record crowd of 70,584 for a women’s match in Britain watched the game, beating the 53,000 at an exhibition game between Preston-based Dick Kerr Ladies, a famous touring side, and St Helens Ladies, at Goodison Park on Boxing Day 1920.
“The atmosphere was electric, we got off to a great start and had to concentrate to finish the job against a very good Brazil side,” Britain’s coach Hope Powell said after her team’s third straight win put them top of Group E.
At least Powell started the match determined to win it unlike Japan coach Norio Sasaki who said after qualifying with a 0-0 draw with South Africa in Cardiff that he instructed his side not to push for a winner at the Millennium Stadium.
The result saw Japan finish second behind Sweden in Group F, meaning they remain in Cardiff for their quarter-final against Brazil while Sweden, who won the group, play Group G runners-up France at Hampden Park.
Sasaki said the result was ideal for his squad.
”We wanted to stay here for the next match. It was important not to move to Glasgow but to stay here and prepare for it.
”Before the match I did not tell the players to draw the game, but if we had a situation during the game - we might have some kind of an instruction to draw the game and it happened like that.
“It was a different way of playing compared to our usual game but I think the players were at the same stage and understood my instructions well.”
An official from soccer’s world governing body FIFA said no action would be taken because there was no collusion between the sides to engineer a result.
The U.S., like Britain, also won their group with maximum points after a 1-0 victory over political foes North Korea at Old Trafford thanks to Abby Wambach’s goal. The Koreans finished with 10 players.
Canada recovered from two goals down with a double from Melissa Tancredi to draw 2-2 with Sweden at St James’ Park, Newcastle, the result meaning they were one of the two best third-placed finishers and they now play Britain at Coventry.
New Zealand, who lost their opening two games, recovered to beat Cameroon 3-1 and claim the other best third-place berth to set up a quarter-final with the U.S. in Newcastle on Friday.
Reporting by Mike Collett