June 21, 2021

Hege Riise confirmed as head coach of Team GB’s women’s football team

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England’s interim head coach will lead Great Britain’s women’s football team at the Olympics Games in Tokyo later this year

Hege Riise will be the head coach of Great Britain’s women’s football team at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo later this year.

Riise, who won Olympic gold with Norway as a player back in 2000, has been in interim charge of the England women’s national team since January, following Phil Neville’s departure to Inter Miami.

The 51-year-old oversaw the Lionesses’ 6-0 win over Northern Ireland in February, their first international fixture for almost 12 months, and her success during that camp has helped secure her place as the head coach of Team GB.

Rhian Wilkinson, the former Canada international who won two Olympic bronze medals with her country, will also go to the Games, as Riise’s assistant.

What has been said?

Upon the announcement, Riise said: “I know first-hand as a former player just how huge the Olympics are as a tournament and I am enormously proud to have this opportunity to lead the GB squad into the Games.

“We will go there to give everything we have to be successful and I hope we can also use the power of the Games to help women’s football continue to grow in popularity.”

Baroness Sue Campbell, the Football Association’s director of women’s football, added: “We could not have been more impressed with the impact that Hege and Rhian have had in such a short space of time with England Women, particularly during our recent international camp at St George’s Park. I am in no doubt that their Olympic experience and management expertise will provide the squad with the best possible opportunity to succeed at the Tokyo Games.”

When will the Team GB squad be announced?

Speaking in early February, Campbell confirmed that there was a long list of around 50 players in contention for the Team GB squad. Players from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland can be selected.

That list, Campbell said, will become “shorter” in March, dropping to around 30 names. The final list of 18 players who will go to Tokyo will be decided in “probably April or May time”.

With the squad much smaller than the 23 players that usually go to a Women’s World Cup or European Championship, versatility has been stressed as a particularly important trait, as well as regular game time, with matches to come thick and fast in Japan.

Who will Team GB play?

The Covid-19 pandemic not only means the Olympic Games had to be pushed back one year, but it also means that the full line-up for the women’s football tournament is yet to be confirmed.

Along with hosts Japan, nine national teams have secured their place at the Games, but there are still two play-offs to be played and therefore the draw for the group stage has not yet taken place.

South Korea and China will face each other in a two-legged play-off in April to decide who will be the third and final representative from the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), joining Japan and Australia. In the same window, an inter-continental play-off will take place between Cameroon and Chile to decide the 12th and final participant.

The United States, Brazil, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Sweden, Canada and Zambia are the other qualified nations.

Who are the favourites to win Olympic gold?

Since the inaugural women’s football tournament at the 1996 Summer Olympics, the U.S. women’s national team have won gold four times. They finished runners-up in 2000 and have only failed to medal on one occasion, that being at the previous games in 2016. After winning the World Cup again in 2019, they are the outstanding favourites this summer.

Germany did not qualify and therefore cannot defend their Olympic gold from five years ago. The silver medallists in Rio, Sweden, and the bronze medallists, Canada, both return. Brazil have previously won silver medals on two occasions and hosts Japan also placed second in 2012.

Team GB should have one of the strongest squads at the Games, the majority likely to be made up of players from England, who reached the semi-finals at the World Cup two years ago. But with players from four nations potentially coming together for the first time, and the disruption there has been around the managerial situation, their fortunes are unpredictable.

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