Casey Stoney: Team GB's women must embrace the pressure of kicking off the Olympic Games (From Crewe Guardian)
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Casey Stoney: Team GB's women must embrace the pressure of kicking off the Olympic Games
4:38pm Tuesday 24th July 2012 in London Olympics 2012 - Latest News
BASILDON-born Team GB women's captain Casey Stoney has urged her side to embrace the pressure of kicking off the Olympic Games tomorrow.
Hope Powell's side meet New Zealand in their Group E opener at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff as the Games get under way two days before Friday's opening ceremony.
The fixture's timing puts the spotlight firmly on the women's game and is a great opportunity to raise the sport's profile.
With that increased scrutiny comes an extra pressure to perform on home soil, but Lincoln defender Stoney says that is something that she and her team-mates should relish.
"If that's pressure then we have to enjoy it," she said. "Hopefully it will raise the profile of women's football as we are not competing with any other sport, and it's live on the BBC.
"It's a global thing, not just for our nation and hopefully we can put on a good show, but we are just focused on getting the job done."
The women's team played out a goalless draw against Sweden in Middlesbrough on Friday as part of a double-header with their male counterparts, and Stoney and coach Powell revealed that the two squads have bonded well after spending time together in the build-up to the Games.
Stoney said: "We had a quite a lot of interaction, the guys have been really good. We were at the Olympic village together, we played pool together and we had forfeits with the loser having to make tea and stuff like that."
Powell added: "We were in Middlesbrough together, we spent a few days together as one squad and it was a really nice atmosphere.
"I think it was good for the girls and guys to be part of that and it was about the ethos of being one Team GB which I think worked really, really well, and as a result I am sure the guys will want to see how the girls are doing and vice-versa."
While Team GB will be looking to secure the gold medal on home turf, Stoney acknowledges that they will face stern challenges from several sides, picking out France, who beat England in the World Cup quarter-finals last year, the United States and Brazil as teams to watch.
"I think France will be a big threat," she said.
"They have been progressing over the last few years and I think Louisa Necib will be one of the star names to come out of their squad.
"The United States are obviously strong, they have Alex Morgan and Abby Wambach and it would be foolish not to mention (Brazil forward) Marta who has been one of the best players over the last few years."
- SEE TOMORROW'S ECHO FOR AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH CASEY STONEY