Hege Riise has selected her twenty-two player (amended from eighteen) squad to represent Team GB at this year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Riise was appointed to lead Team GB after heading up the Lionesses since Phil Neville’s departure in January. The Norwegian coach had the option to choose players from England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland for her limited squad.
Due to the fast-paced and unremitting nature of the Olympics, the FA insisted that Riise’s selection of players must fulfil the following “crucial criteria”:
- Physical condition – Team GB could potentially play six games in seventeen days in warm temperatures and humidity. Players must also cope with hectic travelling schedules.
- Mental toughness – dealing with the pressure of a prestigious global competition and possible setbacks throughout.
- Versatility – with only eighteen places, players must be willing and able to adapt to positions that are not necessarily preferred.
Of Riise’s cohort, perhaps predictably, the majority is made up of English players, with only Scotland’s Kim Little and Caroline Weir and Wales captain Sophie Ingle chosen from other home nations.
OL Reign goalkeeper Karen Bardsley was originally chosen as part of the eighteen however had to withdraw due to injury. Chelsea’s Carly Telford has been called up in her absence, skipping ahead of reserve goalkeeper Sandy MacIver.
Riise has prioritised experience in her selection with half of the squad being aged 28 or over. This decision has somewhat divided opinion with questions of endurance and consistent domestic form coming to the forefront. Yet, being one of only three women to have won the Euro’s, World Cup and the Olympics, Riise is certainly well aware ingredients needed to build a seriously contending squad.
So let’s take a look at Hege Riise’s Team GB.
Ellie Roebuck – Roebuck is surely a show-in for the Olympics. At just 21, Roebuck is bold yet sensible in her decisions and clear with outward communication. Roebuck has kept thirteen clean sheets this season across all competitions alluding to her smart positioning between the posts. Simply, the Manchester City keeper remains as one of the finest in the domestic league, and with her growing international experience, Roebuck should be the number one pick.
Carly Telford – Following Karen Bardsley’s withdrawal due to injury, Chelsea’s Carly Telford has been called up to fill the experienced role between the posts. Although Telford has not seen an awful lot of game time this season her sharp reactions, vocalness and organisation, as well as a fair few game-saving performances, have seen Telford withstand the test of time. Resilient and infectiously optimistic, Telford’s calm presence means she brings much more than just a safe pair of hands.
Sandy MacIver – With a significant amount of game time behind her this season, MacIver is a keeper that should be carefully considered. MacIver presents a favourable outright shot-stopping rate and a distributive passing ability that reflects her skill in being as well versed with her feet as she is with her hands. The Everton keeper presents a confident solidarity at the back and would be a suitable addition to the squad.
Lucy Bronze – Bronze is recognised as being one of the most well-crafted players in the world in her position. The right-back is high pressing, imposing and physical. Bronze likes to keep players on both sides on their toes and is known to be as lively in the attacking third as she is at the back. Evidently always striving for the very best, Bronze is responsible for every touch she takes and is quick to note and actively right a mistake. An open mentality that will be essential under such unremitting circumstances.
Millie Bright – Chelsea defender Bright is a steadfast figure at the back and encompasses every quality one would hope to find in a centre-back. Typically wise in her defensive actions, Bright is shrewd with a tackle and makes substantial interceptive movements. She is successful in applying pressure to divert attacking plays and forcing opponents onto the wrong foot. Bright also carries with her an exceptional ability to accurately play long balls that can spin a game on its head in seconds.
Leah Williamson – Williamson has played another successful season with The Arsenal. The centre-half boasts a first-class first touch and excellent ball control, often developing on these with a keen passing eye. Williamson is organised yet progressive and possesses a capability to carry the ball across considerable distances. Another benefit of having Williamson in the squad is that she is also able to comfortably operate in a deep-seated midfield role which allows the option of a working double pivot.
Steph Houghton – Manchester City and England captain Houghton has been a staple in the Lionesses defensive structure for several years and still has plenty to offer. Up until her recent injury, Houghton’s domestic season had been impressive, the centre back showing off her stout commitment to keeping a clean sheet with her timely challenges and goal-line clearances. Houghton is also an indirect free kick specialist and can pot the ball from the most incomprehensible angles. With ample international experience, Houghton’s leadership and calming presence should not be underestimated in a tournament of such prestige.
Demi Stokes – Left-back Demi Stokes has been a regular figure for both club and country for several years. Typically playing a more defensive fullback role, Stokes is quick and persistent in tracking back and retrieving. However, ever-developing, she also possesses the ability to press forward and overlap her winger in times of transition bringing the best of both to the left side.
Rachel Daly – Daly is a player that could quite literally play in any position on the pitch. Typically used as a fullback when playing internationally, Daly is arguably more usefully located much higher up the pitch. She is forward-thinking with a flair in sparking an independently charged play, yet possesses a defensive savvy. Her willingness to perform out of position and dexterity across the field makes her a favourable selection.
Lotte Wubben-Moy – Wubben-Moy has returned to The Arsenal with a physicality and strength that has punished the efforts of opponents. The centre-back is alert in closing down space and strong in standing her ground. Her growing ball-playing ability is evident and she has even managed to write her name on the scoresheet this season. It is also worth noting that Wubben-Moy typically plays on the left, a useful trait to have in a right-side heavy defensive pack.
Keira Walsh – Walsh remains one of the most skilled defensive midfielders the home nations have to offer. The 24-year-old is a gifted visionary and uses this foresight to execute well-placed balls into the attacking third. Walsh is well used as a ‘springboard’ in propelling play out from a deeper position whilst standing protective of her backline. Approaching games with patience, Walsh bides her time in picking out the most advantageous pass, a crucial cog in goal and shot creation.
Kim Little – Widely regarded as one of the most difficult opponents to come up against, Little navigates the midfield with an untouchable quality. Little’s ball control is second to none and the Arsenal captain can dribble through oppositions effortlessly. Yet possibly one the most valuable aspect of Little’s game is her acute awareness of all that goes on around her, an intellect in knowing her teammate’s whereabouts and an ability to play to them into their strengths. Little’s understated leadership will be paramount in keeping the score ticking.
Caroline Weir – Manchester City midfielder Weir has a wand of a left foot, there is simply no other way to describe it. Another player to bolster the left side, Weir is creative with her positioning and in her passing demonstrated by her ability to regularly assist toward scoring opportunities. However, Weir herself is no stranger to hitting the back of the net. Whether it is from a long-range set piece or a live attack, Weir can hit the target with the sauciest of strikes.
Jill Scott – Lionesses and Manchester City veteran Scott has been placed in just about every situation. Determined, persevering with a fine passing skillset and stamina that rivals those ten years her junior, Scott has remained integral to any side she plays in. Scott’s time loaned out to Everton this season certainly did the trick in keeping her fresh in the mind as the familiar midfielder heavily impressed once again.
Sophie Ingle – Wales captain Ingle acts as an added layer of protection in the defensive third. She can cover well and sweep away threats before they become a problem. However, Ingle’s excellence lies firmly in her passing ability. Ingle can accurately spray long balls which travel between lines, passes that subsequently play a role in creation. On top of this Ingle has also successfully played as a centre-back for Chelsea this season, another useful string to add to her bow.
Niamh Charles – Chelsea’s Charles is a player that can seemingly slot into any formation that is presented. Her first season with the Blues has been exceptional and she has shown a great amount of positional potential. Charles has played in both left-sided and right-sided positions and both attacking and defensive roles demonstrating a clear and prepared adaptability.
Lauren Hemp – Hemp has established herself as a ‘must have’ in international fixtures. The Manchester City winger dances along the wing, revelling in the pressure of beating out stiff competition as she goes. Hemp is an excellent transitional player and can find pockets of space to receive balls to counter an oppositional threat. Also known for her ungovernable pace and skill in placing a cross from either side, Hemp is a proven headache for defenders.
Fran Kirby – The Chelsea forward has returned from her lengthy absence with a vengeance, providing a mammoth thirteen assists and twenty-two goals across all competitions. Kirby has played in a wider position this season but is just as deadly playing centrally in what one would suggest is her most favoured role as a number ten. She is quick, conscious, intelligent and significantly unselfish, drawing in defenders leaving others to dart into optimal positions whilst lines are stretched.
Ellen White – Manchester City forward White is an innate out and out number nine. An ability to put herself in the right place at the right time has seen White score thirteen goals across all competitions this season. White is cool, calm and collected, tidy and concise in tucking the ball away from a clinical finish. Ever the grafter, White’s work rate is noteworthy, she is simply not one to sit tight or wait on the peripheral. White seeks the service she desires and runs tirelessly to receive this.
Nikita Parris – Instinctively attacking Parris is a player that can function well across the front line. The Lyon forward is arguably best placed in a wide area where she can decoy defenders by cutting on the inside with a quick shift of the ball. However, Parris can adapt her skill set to play centrally when needed and boasts a fine scoring ability. Parris is a workhorse and has no problem chasing down a ball or tracking back to retrieve it. Her positive energy drags a simmering momentum out of hiding.
Georgia Stanway – At just 22 Stanway has cemented herself as one of the most versatile players in contention. Stanway has played in many positions both domestically and internationally and is a reliable source in rotation. Stanway displays an attacking mindset and is possibly best utilised as a high attacking midfielder, however, she has demonstrated disciplined defensive positioning when tasked with holding further back. Naturally spirited, Stanway is not one to shy away from a challenge and will get herself stuck in any and all situations.
Ella Toone – Manchester United midfielder Toone has finished her season in style, ending as the Red Devils’ top goal scorer and leading assistant. Toone is a tenacious and hardworking player who excels just slightly set back from the forward line. As a developing provider, Toone is agile and quick-witted in finding the space to create through central pathways.
Women’s football commences at the Olympics on Wednesday 21st July when Team GB will play their first match against Chile at 8:30 am (BST). Coverage will begin at 8:15 am on BBC2.