Many people believe that the Olympic Games begin with the Opening Ceremony. Not true. At London 2012, a Group E encounter between Team GB and New Zealand in Cardiff on 25 July, two days before the showpiece in London, represents the Games’ first event. It is a fact that is not lost on Team GB midfielder Jill Scott.
“We need to exploit that and make sure we get as much support as possible,” she told FIFA.com. “We have an opportunity to create a real legacy, not just in Great Britain, but worldwide too. This tournament is coming so quickly after the World Cup in Germany, which was fantastic, so in a relatively short space of time it will be another boost for the profile of women’s football. For us [Team GB] we just have to put in the performances, because that's what grabs the media’s attention – and also the attention of the youngsters who might be inspired to take up the game."
Scott will wear the No4 shirt for Team GB, just as she did for the England squad during the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup™ in Germany, when she was named in the All-Star squad which was selected by FIFA’s Technical Study Group. Yet personal pride was secondary to the frustration the 25-year-old felt at the Three Lions’ exit following a penalty shoot-out.
“I’m not the type of person to look back, I prefer looking forward,” she smiled. “Don’t get me wrong, I obviously use the experiences I’ve had to improve me as a player and a person, but I haven’t had much time to reflect on the World Cup. Obviously, going out on penalties was hard to take.
“Perhaps people would argue that over the course of the 120 minutes France deserved to win, but we gave everything out there and we just wanted that little bit of luck to get us through. But looking at the positives, our performance against Japan was brilliant. To beat the eventual world champions 2-0 was fantastic. We just need to play like that more consistently, especially in tournament conditions. Knockout football is unforgiving.”
The Everton midfielder’s next taste of knockout football is expected to come at the Olympics, but first Team GB must negotiate a tricky group which also contains Brazil, Cameroon and the Football Ferns. Yet, perhaps understandably, it’s the meeting with the South Americans at Wembley on 31 July which stands out for Scott.
“Looking at the other 11 teams who qualified, whoever we were drawn against would have provided tough opposition,” she said. “Every one of our possible opponents had to go through a tough qualifying campaign and they will all be looking to put one over on the hosts. The game which obviously jumps out is the Brazil game at Wembley.
“It will be a fantastic occasion. I don’t think a women’s international match has ever been held there, England certainly haven’t played, so to meet Brazil, one of the best and most iconic teams in the world in an Olympic Games is something special. They’ve got Marta, who is one of our sport’s best players, so to be involved in that match would be truly amazing.”
Team GB are now training hard for the tournament under the direction of Hope Powell and have a warm-up game against Sweden on Friday 20 July at Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium. It’s the final opportunity for Scott to prove her worth to Powell and the squad and her motivation to be selected for the Games could not be higher.
“I’ve played in a World Cup and a European Championship before, but to be an Olympian would be fantastic,” she smiled. “It’s been a long road here, not only in terms of my career, but also in terms of squad selection. I think initially Hope had around 200 players in consideration, which was cut down to around 50, but to make the final squad of 18 was fantastic.
"I had big games with Everton and England during that time, which was obviously my main focus, but the Olympics were always at the back of my mind. Now we’re all working hard to be in the starting line-up for the game against New Zealand.”