Football Features

‘What a comeback’ – A guide to Team GB women’s squad for Tokyo Olympics

By Harry Edwards

Tokyo Olympics: Team GB women's football squad announced

Published: 13:23, 29 May 2021

With just under two months to go until the Tokyo Olympics, Team GB have announced their 18-player squad for the women’s football tournament.

Women’s football at the Olympics starts two days before the event officially kicks off, running from July 21 to August 6, with 12 teams split into three groups of four. The top two of each group qualify to the knockout stages, while the best two third-placed nations will join them.

Team GB were handed a tough group for the Olympics, drawn alongside hosts Japan, Canada and Chile, with Team GB vs Chile kicking off the tournament in Sapporo on July 21.

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Interim England manager Hege Riise will take charge of Team GB, and on Thursday she named the 18-player squad that she will be taking to Tokyo this summer, with a further four travelling as reserves. The squad (including the reserves) consists of 19 English players, two Scottish and one Welsh.

But who are the 18 who made the squad, and the four reserves?

Goalkeepers

Karen Bardsley (OL Reign/Man City and England)

Karen Bardsley is the most experienced head in the squad, and one of just five players to have previously featured at the Olympics. Bardsley spent a large part of the past two seasons injured and then playing second-fiddle to Ellie Roebuck at Manchester City before joining NWSL side OL Reign on loan until the end of June.

Ellie Roebuck (Manchester City and England)

Roebuck is England’s number one and you can expect her to carry that same role for Team GB. The 21-year-old is one of the brightest young goalkeepers in the world and kept 11 clean sheets in the WSL for Man City last season as they finished second, only conceding 13 goals with Roebuck between the sticks.

Defenders

Millie Bright (Chelsea and England)

Millie Bright was part of the best defence in the WSL last season, helping champions Chelsea keep 15 clean sheets during her time on the pitch (across 21 appearances). Bright has had trouble carrying that club form over to the international stage in the past, but Team GB will be hoping she can find the performances this summer.

Lucy Bronze (Manchester City and England)

The Best Women’s Player, after winning the award in 2020, Lucy Bronze had a good season upon her return to Manchester City playing 18 times for Gareth Taylor’s side despite not winning a trophy for the first time in what feels like a while. The right-back is pretty much undroppable for club and country thanks to the level of performances she puts in.

Steph Houghton (Manchester City and England)

England captain Steph Houghton hasn’t played since the start of March due to an Achilles injury, but she has been included in the Team GB squad and is expected to recover. Like Bardsley, Houghton was in the Team GB squad for London 2012 and actually finished as their top scorer, netting three times. On her day she is still a very good defender.

Demi Stokes (Manchester City and England)

The third Man City player in Team GB’s defence will be Demi Stokes, who has made the England left-back spot her own over the past few years. Like Bardsley, however, Stokes didn’t have the best of seasons for playing time, managing just 13 appearances due to injury and missing Man City’s final two WSL games.

Leah Williamson (Arsenal and England)

Leah Williamson is quite comfortably England’s best centre-back and, at the age of 24, will be the one for the future as well as the now. She goes into the Olympics off the back of a good finish to the season with Arsenal, and is capable of both defending and creating chances, setting up attacks with her magnificent passing range.

Midfielders

Sophie Ingle (Chelsea and Wales)

The sole Welsh representative in the Team GB squad, Sophie Ingle had a slightly subdued season with Chelsea, having to watch on as Melanie Leupolz made the holding role her own. But when Ingle was played in midfield, she was excellent, and is perhaps one of the more under-rated players in the WSL (due to the job she does).

Kim Little (Arsenal and Scotland)

Another player who, perhaps, isn’t as appreciated as she should be by those outside of her club, Kim Little is well deserving of her place as one of two Scottish players. The 31-year-old midfielder ended the season in great form with Arsenal and can create something from nothing, which may be important in this very narrow team. Little also played for Team GB at London 2012.

Jill Scott (Manchester City and England)

Jill Scott’s inclusion is one that has caused some stir, as she only started getting extended game time when sent on loan to Everton for the second half of the WSL campaign. But the 34-year-old is one of the more experienced players in the squad and an invaluable leader whether she’s on the pitch or watching as a substitute. Like Houghton, Scott scored at London 2012.

Keira Walsh (Manchester City and England)

Another English Man City representative is Keira Walsh who, like Ingle, does the no-nonsense job that goes under the radar at times. Walsh is still only 24 but has already put in some big performances for Man City, with the hope she can replicate that at international level under the right manager – starting with Team GB this summer.

Caroline Weir (Manchester City and Scotland)

Weir’s partner in crime at Man City, Caroline Weir completes the non-English contingent and is another quality midfield player that Riise has to try and squeeze into her team. The Scot is capable of playing across the midfield, both in defensive roles and further up the pitch where she can be a threat to the opposition goal. You just need to look at her WSL goal against Manchester United to see what she can do.

Forwards

Rachel Daly (Houston Dash and England)

Rachel Daly was listed in the official announcement as a defender, and that’s where she is likely to play, but the 29-year-old is in fact a forward. She plays as a forward for club side Houston Dash, with whom she won the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup before spending a brief spell in the WSL with West Ham United – also as a forward.

Lauren Hemp (Manchester City and England)

Lauren Hemp is only 20 but she is already one of Man City and England’s best players. The former Bristol City winger goes into the Tokyo Olympics off the back of an excellent season in which she tormented defences from the left side of Man City’s attack, scoring six goals and recording eight assists.

Fran Kirby (Chelsea and England)

If the Olympics were staged as year ago, as they were supposed to, Fran Kirby wouldn’t have been involved, as she hadn’t played any football between November 2019 and last summer due to pericarditis. But the 27-year-old returned from her battle at the start of the season and once she got going, it was like she never left. Kirby ended the 2020/21 campaign having been directly involved in 43 goals for Chelsea, scoring 25 and providing 18 assists, winning the WSL title and the Continental Cup, reaching the Champions League final, winning the Football Writers’ Association Women’s Footballer of the Year and Barclays FAWSL Player of the Year. What a comeback.

Nikita Parris (Lyon and England)

Nikita Parris has been in good form for Lyon when on the pitch, scoring 11 goals in 19 league appearances for the club (12 of which have come from the start). Although she isn’t one of the older members of the squad, Parris is vocal and known for her leadership attributes, which will be just as key as her performances for Team GB this summer.

Georgia Stanway (Manchester City and England)

Another one of England’s younger players, Georgia Stanway had a slightly more subdued season in 2020/21, compared to the high standards she had set with an excellent 2018/19. But that’s, in part, due to the utility role Stanway has been playing for Man City, appearing practically everywhere across the pitch except for in goal.

Ellen White (Manchester City and England)

England’s star striker, Ellen White spent most of the 2020/21 campaign in an interesting tussle with Vivianne Miedema at the top of the all-time WSL goalscoring charts. She ended the season with 10 goals and scored in Man City’s final game, but Team GB will be hoping she can be more dangerous this summer. White is the final member of the Team GB squad with previous Olympics experience.

Reserve players: Sandy MacIver (Everton and England), Lotte Wubben-Moy (Arsenal and England), Niamh Charles (Chelsea and England), Ella Toone (Manchester United and England)

How Team GB could line up

There were a fair few disappointed fans when the team was announced on Thursday, with some believing the likes of Jordan Nobbs, Alex Greenwood and Erin Cuthbert had been unfairly overlooked. And with the 18 that Riise has named in her squad, it can be fairly easy to see the route she will likely take with her starting XI.

Roebuck should start in goal, and the centre-back partnership of Houghton and Bright is one that will likely continue, as they have history for England. Riise has also used Daly as a right-back for England, which may lead her to do the same with Team GB, pushing Bronze over to the left where she has performed for Man City.

In midfield, it will be hard not to pick Walsh, and Scott may join her, though Stanway has also been used in a deeper role for England under Riise’s tenure. Finally, a more fluid attack could see Kirby, Hemp and White joined by Weir who, as we said, can cause problems to the opposition defence – but she will also drop back to help Walsh and Scott with the defensive work.

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