Steph Houghton celebrates scoring against the USA in the She Believes Cup. Photo from @StephHoughton2

Olympics Preview: Team GB Squad Prediction

With the domestic season now over, attention turns to the Olympics where interim Lionesses head coach Hege Riise will select eighteen players to represent Team GB.

The Olympics are set to take place in Tokyo between 23rd July – 8th August, yet as with everything over the past year unpredictability remains firmly intact.

Riise was appointed to lead Team GB after heading up the Lionesses since Phil Neville’s departure in January. The Norwegian coach has the option to choose players from the four home nations, England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland for her limited squad.

Due to the fast-paced and unremitting nature of the Olympics, the FA insist that Riise’s selection of players must fulfil the following “crucial criteria”.

  • Physical condition – Team GB could 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 potential setbacks throughout.
  • Versatility – with only eighteen places, players must be willing and able to adapt to positions that are not necessarily preferred.

Riise must select a robust squad that can rotate with a degree of adaptability. It is for this reason that it should be considered the squad may not necessarily consist of players that are generally classed as the most prolific on paper.

A key aspect of an Olympic squad is a unified team dynamic. A group that will gel to create the most coherent unit, not just the most individually gifted in each position. A careful balance must be sought between ‘big game’ international experience and dependable domestic form; versatility and singular positional excellence; consistency and rotation.

Unfortunately, as is the cruelty of football, some players that would have perhaps been in contention are now not fit to partake. This is particularly true of Manchester City’s Chloe Kelly, whose dynamite season came to an abrupt end after picking up an ACL injury. Other players that are out of the running include Manchester United midfielder Hayley Ladd, Reading defender Emma Mitchell, Arsenal centre back Jen Beattie, as well as the ever-flexible Lisa Evans.

Lionesses skipper Steph Houghton has also been out of action over the past couple of months due to an Achilles injury. Whether Houghton is in a position to participate remains to be seen, however if her recovery has run smoothly, one would expect Houghton to be a central figure within the squad.

Below is a look at a potential selection for the Olympics with short justifications for each player.

Photo: @ManCityWomen

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.

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.

Photo: The FA via Getty Images

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 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 One would expect Manchester City and England captain Houghton to be on the plane to Tokyo if she is fit enough to do so. Houghton has been a staple in the Lionesses defensive structure for a number of 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.

Alex Greenwood 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 Manchester City defender Greenwood has arguably just played one of the greatest seasons of her career. The left back has shown a promising attacking flavour in pressing along the wing but has also notably strengthened her defensive qualities after stints as a centre back. Greenwood is well known for her dead ball deliveries, especially her accurately placed corner kicks. Furthermore, Greenwood is naturally left sided and will be a key element in formulating a left side – right side equilibrium. 

Lotte Wubben-Moy 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 Wubben-Moy has returned to 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.

Photo: @ArsenalWFC

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 a patient approach, 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 is able to 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 team mates whereabouts and an ability to play to them in to their strengths. Little’s understated leadership will be paramount in keeping the core 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 is able to hit the target with the sauciest of strikes. 

Jordan Nobbs 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 Nobbs is a recognised tyrant within the middle third. The Arsenal midfielder reinforces her sharp positioning with nifty footwork and a deft touch. Nobbs’ game is quick, intricate and at times daring. She is creative in her runs both on and off the ball, often making movements that are not spotted until it is too late. Nobbs is also renowned for her distanced belters that regularly rattle the back of the net. The addition of Nobbs typically results in a more fluid and dynamic midfield bridge, she is a useful tool to have handy when play falls static.   

Georgia Stanway 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 At just 22 Stanway has cemented herself as one of the most versatile players in contention. Stanway has played in a number of 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 task with holding further back. Naturally spirited, Stanway is not one to shy away from a challenge and will get herself stuck into any and all situations.

Photo: @ChelseaFCW

Lauren Hemp 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 Hemp has established herself 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 is able to 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 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 Kirby is likely to be many supporters first choice to be seated on the plane. 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 a with 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.

All Photos: The FA via Getty Images

Nikita Parris 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 Instinctively attacking Parris is a player that is able to function well across the front line. The Lyon forward is arguably best placed in a wide area where she is able to decoy defenders by cutting on the inside with a quick shift of the ball. However, Parris can adapt her skillset to play centrally when needed and boasts a fine scoring ability. Parris is a workhorse and has no problem in chasing down a ball or tracking back to retrieve. Her positive energy drags a simmering momentum out of hiding.  

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.  

Photo: @EllaToone99

Reserves
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 in both attacking and defensive roles demonstrating a clear and prepared adaptability.  

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 setback from the forward line. As a developing provider Toone is agile and quick witted in finding the space to create through central pathways.   

Erin Cuthbert 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 Scotland international Cuthbert is better known as Chelsea’s inhouse pest. Cuthbert is stubborn and gritty and happily throws herself into the dirty work. Typically placed out wide, Cuthbert makes herself a bother to both those in front and behind her. She is persistent in tracking back and retrieving a lost ball and is tenacious in carrying said retrieval forward. Cuthbert is an all-round nuisance for oppositions, a player you certainly want on side.

Sophie Ingle 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 Wales captain Ingle acts as an added layer of protection in the defensive third. She is able to cover well and sweep away threats before they become a problem. However, Ingle’s excellence lies firmly in her passing ability. Ingle is able to 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.  

Team GB’s confirmed squad list is to be announced very soon.