Team GB manager Hege Riise announced her squad for the Tokyo Olympic Games on Thursday. The group consists of 18 selected players, plus four reserves who will travel with the squad to the Japanese capital. The tournament begins with Team GB’s match against Chile on 21 July in Sapporo. Five players have been named who also featured for Team GB at the London Olympic Games in 2012 when a women’s team last represented the UK. The returning Olympians are Karen Bardsley, Jill Scott, Steph Houghton and Ellen White of England, as well as Scotland’s Kim Little.
The squad is made up of England internationals, except for Scotland’s Little and Caroline Weir, and Wales’s Sophie Ingle.
Hege Riise spoke to EnglandFootball.org about how the four reserve players feel about travelling but ultimately not being in the squad. She said: “For us, they are in the squad. I know that 18 are selected and four are reserves, but for us, we travel with 22 players. We are excited — they are young players coming who have a great bright future ahead of that. I think they all are just eager and proud to be a part, and to get the experience of being in a major tournament before the Euros coming up for them later.”Embed from Getty Images
Team GB’s chef de mission Mark England discussed the strengths of the squad named by former Norway gold medallist Riise. He told EnglandFootball.org: “I think when you get to an Olympic Games and you see the enormity of the event, probably the important thing is a blend of experience and youth. That’s what this team has.
“Fantastic that five [are] returning Olympics from 2012. They will add that maturity, they’ll add that consistency, and they’ll add that experience around what it is like to compete at an Olympic Games and the huge entourage that comes with that. In addition to that experience that you have across the 18 players from the home nations, that blend of experience and maturity and confidence and ‘been there and done that before’ will be fantastic for them.”
Asked whether experience of London 2012 came into Hege Riise’s thinking when selecting individuals for the squad, England said: “I’m sure it did. But we’ve not spoken, and I think it’s very much for the individual sports or disciplines to nominate the players to us. I’m sure she’s done her homework and I’m sure she’s selected what she believes to be the best team that can represent Great Britain. And of course [she is] an Olympian in her own right, so she’s going to know how that’s panning out.”
There have been rumours for many weeks now that the postponed Games would not go ahead this summer, such is Japan’s current struggle with the fourth wave of coronavirus. However, official correspondence from the International Olympic Committee maintains that the tournament will still go ahead as planned.
Sue Campbell, head of women’s football at The FA, is assured the women’s football team can experience the Games safely. “TOCOG, the Tokyo organising committee, and the Japanese government are doing a phenomenal amount to get this Games on,” she admitted to EnglandFootball.org. “The International Olympics Committee working with the international federations have been sending us briefings on a very regular basis.
“There are now very clear protocols that we’re all working to, in terms of the way we take our tests, when we take them, what that means, and of course all our players and support team will be vaccinated before our departure to Tokyo. I think everyone has been scrupulous about this. Everyone understands the danger, and no one wants our athletes to be put in danger. So, I think all the measures have been taken. I’m very confident that the protocols that they’ve put in place, hopefully, will keep us all safe.”