Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games - Football preview: Hege Riise’s Team GB squad aiming to leave Tokyo with a medal
Team GB have landed in Tokyo under the new management of highly decorated former Norwegian international, Hege Riise. The Norwegian was named England’s interim manager shortly before it was announced that she would also lead Team GB in Tokyo this summer. Many people have backed Riise as an ideal figure to guide Britain towards Olympic success, Anna Minter writes.
Hege Riise, Head Coach of Great Britain looks on during the Team GB Football Training Session at Loughborough University
Team GB face an esteemed group of nations in this summer’s Olympics, but there is no doubt that Hege Riise’s squad will be aiming to leave Tokyo with a medal to showcase.
A lack of England and Team GB friendlies in the build up to Tokyo carries a talented British squad into this tournament with an element of unpredictability. Whether that will work with or against Riise’s Team GB side is yet to be discovered.
With just 12 countries eligible for qualifying, making it to the group stages is a recognised achievement for each team.
Team GB have landed in Tokyo under the new management of highly decorated former Norwegian international, Hege Riise.
The Norwegian was named England’s interim manager shortly before it was announced that she would also lead Team GB in Tokyo this summer.
Boasting 188 caps and 58 goals for her country, Riise knows exactly what is required to be the best in the world, having won the World Cup, the European Championship, and Olympic gold with Norway.
Riise has found global success within her coaching roles too, as the former medallist assisted the USA coaching staff when they took home the 2012 gold medal at the London Olympics.
A character often described as humble and focused, many people have backed Riise as an ideal figure to guide Britain towards Olympic success.
Hege Riise will be planning for Team GB's Olympic bid during England's friendlies
Image credit: Getty Images
TEAM GB SQUAD
Besides last Wednesday’s pre-tournament match against New Zealand, Team GB have played no friendlies leading up to Tokyo.
Although far from ideal in terms of preparation, the squad do come into the Olympics as an unknown, which Riise is likely to play to her advantage.
A total of 19 English players were selected for the 22-player squad that boasts a measured blend of both youth and experience.
Featuring in the 2012 London Olympics, Steph Houghton, Jill Scott, Ellen White and Kim Little are a number of the selected senior figures bolstering the Team GB squad.
The Tokyo games will be an Olympic debut for 13 players, with Welsh International Sophie Ingle and Scottish midfielder Caroline Weir accompanying England’s Leah Williamson, Rachel Daley, Kiera Walsh, Fran Kirby and Lucy Bronze.
England’s twenty-year-old forward Lauren Hemp was the youngest player to be selected following an inspired season with Manchester City.
Alongside the initial 18-player squad, Team GB have also named four reserve players that will travel to Tokyo: Sandy MacIver, Niamh Charles, Lotte Wubben-Moy and Ella Toone.
This follows a recent adjustment announced by the International Olympic Committee which allows teams to call on their reserves in instances of injury or covid related absence.
A LOOK BACK ON LONDON 2012
Team GB first fielded a women’s football team in the London 2012 Olympics after gaining automatic qualification as tournament hosts.
The home nation soon proved they deserved to be there, as they finished top of their group after winning all three of their group matches.
GB’s efforts fell short in the quarter finals, as a 2-0 defeat to Canada crushed their dreams of winning a medal on home soil. Eventual winners, the USA claimed gold for the third consecutive time against this summer’s hosts Japan.
FRUSTRATION OF 2016
Many teams will be raring to perform in the Tokyo games after the angst and frustration a year of postponement has caused.
It is likely that Team GB will arrive with even more of a point to prove considering the players were spared the opportunity to compete in the Rio 2016 tournament.
Despite England celebrating a bronze medal at the 2015 World Cup, which would have undoubtedly earned Britain Olympic qualification, Team GB did not feature in the 2016 games.
This was not on the grounds of international ranking, but at the expense of the football associations in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland holding conflicting views on approving the men’s and women’s teams.
Mark Sampson, the England manager at the time, believed that the provisional 2016 squad could have gone on to win gold in Rio had they been given the chance.
Unbeaten since January 2019, the USA squad have won 39 of their last 41 games and are the obvious favourites to clinch gold at this summer’s tournament.
The majority of Vlatko Andonovski’s 22-player squad is made up of the same athletes that lifted the 2019 World Cup trophy.
Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan and Christen Press are all players that consistently perform for their country on the global stage, and their talent will certainly not be underestimated by their opponents in these Olympics.
Megan Rapinoe #15 of the United States before a game
Image credit: Getty Images
After the USA, the Netherlands are deemed most likely to win gold in Tokyo. Providing a tough contest for the USA in the 2019 World Cup final, the Dutch team could offer themselves a chance of redemption if results sway to a USA v Netherlands final.
That being said, tournament football can be unpredictable. Sweden, Team GB, Canada and Brazil are also all nations that will be looking to ruffle the feathers and take home any medal of colour from Tokyo, alongside Japan who have the excitement of home advantage.
TOURNAMENT GROUPS AND STAGES
12 nations will compete in three groups:
GROUP E: Canada, Chile, GB, Japan
GROUP F: Brazil, China PR, Netherlands, Zambia
GROUP G: Australia, New Zealand, Sweden, USA
Once all group games are played, the top two teams from each group automatically progress to the quarter finals, alongside the two best third place teams in the knockout stages.
The two finalists will compete for a gold medal, with runners up getting silver. The two losing sides from both semi-finals will then play off for the bronze medal.
All group stage games will be played on the same day, with the opening matches of the tournament kicking off this Wednesday 21st July.
Eurosport will be providing live coverage of Team GB’s opener against Chile at the Sapporo Dome, KO 8:30 BST.
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