Football didn’t come home when Gareth Southgate’s England lost at the EUROs final against Italy this summer. Still, Hege Riise’s Team GB could get the job done at the Olympics.
The Olympic Games is clearly a much bigger deal for women’s football than it is for men’s. Team GB is a hybrid squad; nine years after they first turned out at London 2012, they have the chance to do it once more.
This time under the temporary reign of Norwegian Riise, following Phil Neville’s departure and ahead of Dutch manager Sarina Wiegman, who will assume the full-time position in September, England will be looking to take home the gold. From the Women’s Super League, Manchester City is the team with most representatives (9) in the 22-player squad; ten if you include Jill Scott, who spent the second half of last season at Everton.
The Norwegian has put together her squad from all the GB nations, although it’s predominantly England, who were the team who secured qualification. Also, she decided to share the captaincy around Manchester City and England’s defender Steph Houghton, Wales’s midfielder Sophie Ingle, and Scotland’s vice-captain Kim Little.
There’s also players in this squad who have won the FA Women’s Super League but there are players who have won the UEFA Women’s Champions League, such as FIFA 2020 Best Player of the Year for Lucy Bronze, who won it with Olympique Lyon. It’s for sure that this squad knows what it takes to win at the highest level.
If you wanted Southgate’s Lions to win because of their off-the-pitch conduct and evident principles, Riise’s Team GB should appeal to you as well. They’re taking the knee before each game as a matter of solidarity. More than that, they know that the Games organisers are prohibiting the official accounts from sharing images of their protest – so they’re making sure they are posting it as widely as possible on their own accounts.
And their work in the community might not be as high profile as their male counterparts’ but it’s still important; for example, Steph Houghton works tirelessly as a patron for the Darby Rimmer Motor Neurone Disease Foundation.
Team GB’s squad this year also has a lot of talent:
Sunderland-born Scott, switched back to her former club Everton on loan last season in an effort to get the game time she wasn’t receiving at Manchester City and play herself into contention for the Olympics. It worked perfectly. Then, there’s Manchester City star Ellen White.
She scored a hat-trick against Northern Ireland when England returned to the field in 2021, and then a brace in Team GB’s warm-up against New Zealand ahead of her two against Chile in the first group game. She’s surely Team GB’s talisman to get the gold this year.
Team GB will head into the quarter-finals with a tough encounter against the Matildas on Friday. If they win, they’ll reach the last four, something outstandingly better than they did in London 2012. And who knows, if they keep this rhythm, it could be time to think about football coming home this summer after all.