MILAN (AP) – Great Britain's women's football team kicked off the Olympics in the perfect fashion with a 1-0 win over New Zealand in Group E.
In front of a 24,549-strong crowd, the 24-year-old curled home a superb second-half free-kick to give the home side a win that puts them on track for a place in the last eight of the 12-team competition.
Of almost equal importance, it maintained the feel-good factor sweeping around the country ahead of Friday's opening ceremony.
For Durham-born Houghton it was fitting reward for the courage she showed to battle back from the disappointment of missing both the 2007 World Cup and 2009 European Championship through injury.
Even at last year's World Cup, the 24-year-old's contribution was limited to just 39 minutes of the quarter-final defeat to France.
Watching from the stands, FIFA president Sepp Blatter must have been impressed at the cool manner of Houghton's finish, which secured a deserved win for Hope Powell's players, who take on Cameroon at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.
Brazil went top of Group E as they opened their Olympic campaign in style with a comfortable 5-0 victory over tournament newcomers Cameroon at the Millennium Stadium.
Early goals from Francielle and Renato Costa put Brazil in control, before captain Marta with a brace and substitute Cristiane sealed victory.
Sweden's women emphasised the gulf in class as they easily disposed of South Africa 4-1 after a first-half scoring spree in their Olympic Games Group F clash at the City of Coventry Stadium.
Sweden's skipper Nilla Fischer broke the deadlock after seven minutes although her shot from the edge of the box took a deflection off Refiloe Jane.
Then after 20 minutes Lisa Dahlkvist side-footed home a Hammarstrom centre to double Sweden's lead.
60 seconds later Lotta Schelin slipped the ball past South African keeper Roxanne Barker to make it 3-0.
Portia Modise reduced the arrears after 60 minutes with a spectacular long range chip over the head of Swedish keeper Hedvig Lindahl.
But three minutes later Schelin converted a near post cross from Dahlkvist for her second goal.
Women's World Cup holders Japan launched their bid for Olympic glory with a 2-1 victory over Canada in their opening Group F encounter at the City Of Coventry Stadium.
First half goals from Nahomi Kawasumi and Aya Miyama put Japan in command before their opponents staged a spirited second half comeback.
But Melissa Tancredi reduced the arrears when she turned home a low centre from Rhian Wilkinson but Japan resumed control shortly after, looking impressive as they saw out the match.