Hege Riise Announced as Team GB Manager at Tokyo Olympics

The FA

The Football Association has today announced that Hege Riise will manage Great Britain & Northern Ireland’s women’s football team at the upcoming Tokyo Olympic Games this summer.

Former Norway great Riise was always due to be a part of the staff in a coaching role of some sort, but as suspected will now assume the role of head coach. Former Chair of UK Sport and The FA’s current Director of Women’s Football Baroness Sue Campbell told the press that Riise’s pedigree made this a simple decision. She also acknowledged that adjusting to playing under a new manager can be difficult, and that having a level of continuity with Riise’s status as current England interim manager would help.

Riise knows what it takes to win the Olympics, having won gold at the 2000 Games in Sydney as a player with Norway, and also at London 2012 as assistant coach for the United States. Meanwhile, Team GB last competed at the Olympics in 2012, losing to eventual bronze-medalists Canada.

Speaking with EnglandFootball.org after the announcement on Wednesday, Baroness Campbell ensured that all the FAs in the UK will offer Riise their full support and that internal targets won’t be set.

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She said: “We have the aspiration to win tournaments we’re in. The Football Association has launched a new national strategy which is very clear that one of the major game-changers in the next six years is the men’s and women’s teams winning a major tournament. This is a major tournament. So, our aspiration is to go there and to win.

“But that doesn’t mean we’ll be pressuring Hege or the staff. I think you — listening to her — already understand, she is a winner. She knows what it is to win; she wants to win; and I think she’ll do everything in her power to win. She doesn’t need pressure from me or anyone else.

“And I think the other thing that is very important, as she’s said a number of times, is making sure this is a positive and enjoyable experience, as well as staying focused and very clear about what our goal is.”

The complex workings of the United Kingdom and the countries within has always caused a slight tension between UK sports bodies, the IOC and footballing governing bodies like FIFA. Both Campbell and Riise were keen to note that all four FAs are in total agreement that the campaign must be competitive rather than diplomatic. Players will be picked on form and ability, not which of the home nations they are from. Campbell even went so far as to admit that the “majority of players will be English.”

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With that in mind, newly unveiled manager Riise told EnglandFootball.org that any England players selected can indeed see the Olympics campaign as added experience ready for a Euros on home soil next summer, as well as taking it seriously as a major tournament in its own right.

“All the experience that the players get playing in big tournaments is adding to their experience,” Riise said. “For English players that go to Olympics and will be going for the Euros, that’s major experience that they get. The Euros is a totally different tournament, but like everything you add to your experience [to] bring you one step further. This is a good tournament and experience going forward.”

Campbell also revealed that while there had never been an open applications procedure for this role, a number of applicants did come forward. She was eager to assert that every applicant was given suitable feedback as to why they were or weren’t selected.

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She also said that the final squad will be announced in May, and that the one friendly on home soil planned for before they depart for Japan will involve the final squad rather than a preliminary squad. The opponents for that match are still undecided.

By the end of this week, a long-list of potential players will be cut to a shorter preliminary list of 35 players. However, the identities of the personnel included won’t be made public. The final squad size will be just 18 players drawn from Great Britain & Northern Ireland. In addition to this, there will be four reserves who will travel out with the team in case anyone picks up an injury.

Before that, Riise has an England camp to look forward to in April, when the Lionesses are set to play a friendly against Canada. It will be her second match at the helm following last month’s 6-0 demolition of Northern Ireland.

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