With Hege Riise now confirmed as Team GB’s coach for the Tokyo Olympics, the pieces are starting to fall together for the women’s football team ahead of this summer’s games.
However, picking a squad of just 18 from a pool of English, Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish players is one hell of a task for Riise and her backroom staff, and will likely lead to a number of big names missing out.
Let’s take a look at what we already know about the Team GB squad for Tokyo 2021 and what we can hazard a guess at.
With the Olympics pushed back a year, the squad that Phil Neville would have selected for the 2020 games may have looked a lot different to the one that Riise will pick for the 2021 games.
Fran Kirby would have almost certainly missed out last year, having been absent for the majority of the 2019/20 campaign through illness. However, the forward is currently in the form of her life for Chelsea and has been one of the WSL’s standout performers this campaign, having made a remarkable comeback.
Lauren Hemp and Chloe Kelly both enjoyed excellent seasons with Manchester City and Everton last term and would likely have been on the cusp of Neville’s GB squad. However, with just a handful of international caps between them and GB spoilt for choice in wide areas, they could have narrowly missed the cut. The pair have gone up another level this season and established themselves as two of the league’s most exciting creative players. Both Hemp and Kelly will be hard to ignore.
Ella Toone would not have been part of the Team GB conversation last season, but she has forced herself into the reckoning after a stunning first half of the campaign with Manchester United. The midfielder was in and out of the Red Devils’ side last term, but her displays this year resulted in her being handed her England debut in February.
The Olympics is a football tournament like no other, with six games in the space of 17 days. At her first press conference as England interim manager, Riise – herself already an Olympic champion as a player and assistant coach – cited ‘physicality’ and ‘mentality’ as key to players being selected for the games.
The former Norway midfielder also stated that versatility was an important characteristic to have, given the small squad size and intense fixture schedule. This will be a plus for the likes of Rachel Daly, Sophie Ingle, Leah Williamson, Alex Greenwood, Erin Cuthbert, Lisa Evans and Caroline Weir, who are all capable of playing in multiple positions.
Riise also explained that young goalkeepers Sandy MacIver, Hannah Hampton and Ellie Roebuck had been selected in her first England squad ahead of the more experienced Karen Bardsley and Carly Telford because they are playing regularly for their clubs. This puts Telford’s place at Tokyo under threat, and suggests that both Bardsley and Jill Scott were wise to seek their recent loan moves away from Manchester City for more first team minutes.
Riise’s small 20-player squad for her maiden England camp in February was selected with the intention of replicating the competition for places ahead of Tokyo, and could have dropped major hints as to who is in with a strong shout of making the plane.
Nikita Parris missed out due to Covid-19 regulations back in France, but Riise made it clear the Lyon forward would have been selected if available.
Captain Steph Houghton – who shot to fame at London 2012 – 2020 Fifa Best Player of the Year Lucy Bronze and 2019 World Cup talisman Ellen White are three players you would consider as nailed on to make the squad (injury permitting). It would also be a major shock if Fran Kirby, Millie Bright, Ellie Roebuck and Keira Walsh missed out.
Riise’s first England squad: Hannah Hampton, Ellie Roebuck, Sandy MacIver; Steph Houghton, Lotte Wubben-Moy, Millie Bright, Lucy Bronze, Alex Greenwood, Leah Williamson; Jill Scott, Ella Toone, Keira Walsh, Jordan Nobbs, Georgia Stanway; Chloe Kelly, Rachel Daly, Fran Kirby, Beth England, Ellen White, Lauren Hemp.
Scotland’s Caroline Weir has been ridiculously good for Manchester City over the past two seasons and would walk into most WSL starting XIs. Although competition for places in attacking midfield is fierce, compatriots Kim Little and Erin Cuthbert would also be unfortunate if they were to miss out. Like Cuthbert and Weir, Scotland teammate Lisa Evans’ versatility should put her in the reckoning.
Last season Emma Hayes said that Team GB should be built around Wales captain Sophie Ingle, who can operate as a defensive midfielder or centre half. This is an ability that Leah Williamson also possesses, so it will be interesting to see if Riise opts to include both or chooses one over the other.
Wales duo Hayley Ladd and Jess Fishlock will also be knocking on the door of the squad, while Rachel Furness and Simone Magill will be flying the flag for Northern Ireland.
Beth Mead was a big name absentee from Riise’s first England squad, while Millie Turner was also initially left out despite her excellent season at Manchester United. The duo were later called up following injuries, suggesting that although not out of favour, they both have a point to prove if they are to make the GB squad.
Forwards Toni Duggan and Jodie Taylor also missed the cut for Riise’s first England squad, with the former not called up for the Lionesses since the 2020 SheBelieves Cup, while the latter has not featured for her country since 2019.
Izzy Christiansen’s excellent form for Everton this season saw her rewarded with an England recall in October, but she has not been named in a Lionesses’ squad since.