Team GB’s women’s football team will play hosts Japan, Canada and Chile in the group stages of the Olympics.
GB, who qualified by virtue of England’s performance at the 2019 Women’s World Cup, can select players from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Head coach Hege Riise, who won Olympic gold as a player with Norway in 2000, has now selected her 18-player squad for the Games this summer.
Having been drawn in a separate group from Sarina Wiegman’s European champions, Holland, and the back-to-back World Cup winners the USA, GB will be confident of progressing to the knockout stages, but will still face difficult tests in Group E – which is the first of three groups but has been so named because the men’s tournament’s groups were labelled A-D.
As hosts, Japan will be expected to challenge, while Canada beat England and Wales in recent friendlies and Chile’s Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper Christiane Endler is widely seen as one of the very best shot-stoppers in the world.
Unlike in the men’s version where age limits apply, women’s teams can field their strongest, senior sides, so the women’s game sees the competition as a major tournament and gold medals are seen as the pinnacle of players’ careers.
- Hege Riise: Picking Team GB women’s football squad for Tokyo 2021 Olympics was ‘hardest decision’
When are Team GB’s games?
Riise’s team will play in the first match of the women’s football competition on the opening day of the entire Olympic Games, on July 21. Across all sports, only women’s softball will start earlier than Team GB v Chile, which will be played in the northern city of Sapporo, on a different island to Tokyo’s Olympic village.
Three days later, GB will meet the hosts in Sapporo again, before taking on Canada nearly 700 miles away in Kashima on July 27.
With 12 teams in the competition, the top two sides in each of the three groups will go through to the quarter-finals, along with the two best third-place teams.
The winners of GB’s group would take on a third-placed nation in Kashima on July 30, before potentially meeting the winners of the USA’s group in the semi-finals in Yokohama on August 2.
The runners-up in GB’s group will face the runners-up from Group F [Holland’s group] in the coastal town of Rifu on July 30, before colliding with the Group F winners on August 2 in Kashima.
The final, in Tokyo, will be played on August 6. Germany, 2016 gold-medal winners, have not qualified for the competition, but runners-up, Sweden, are in Group G alongside their long-standing rivals the USA, while GB’s opponents Canada took bronze five years ago.
By Fiona Tomas
Team GB women’s football team will take a knee ahead of kick-off in their games at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in support of the fight against racism and discrimination.
It comes after the International Olympic Committee relaxed Rule 50, which had previously banned athletes from taking a knee or protesting against human rights abuses on the podium and field of play or at the opening and closing ceremonies at this summer’s Games.
Organisers bowed to growing pressure earlier this month and will now allow peaceful protest prior to competition, although athletes may still face sanctions for any protests made on the medal podium.
Hege Riise, the Team GB head coach, said: “The players and staff have been taking the knee at club and international level for over a year now and we were all united in our decision to continue doing whatever we can to raise awareness of racism and discrimination in all its forms, standing in unity and solidarity with all those whose lives are affected.
“We are clear that taking the knee is an important symbol of peaceful protest against discrimination, injustice and inequality in society and we are glad that the IOC has acknowledged the importance of this form of freedom of expression.
“We will do so with the utmost respect for our fellow competitors, officials and the IOC, with due regard for the ideals that lie at the heart of the Olympic movement.”
Andy Anson, the British Olympic Association CEO, said: “As one of the most diverse and inclusive sports teams in the UK, Team GB will always support any athlete from any sport and their right to promote equality and a more just society, where it is carried out peacefully, respectfully and without disruption. By taking the knee our women’s football side are embodying the values of Team GB.”
Team GB also confirmed on Thursday that there will be a trio of captains on rotation throughout the tournament. England’s Steph Houghton, Scotland’s Kim Little and Wales’ Sophie Ingle will share the armband in leading Riise’s side.
Who is in the Team GB squad?
Goalkeepers: Ellie Roebuck (Manchester City and England), Carly Telford (Chelsea and England)
Defenders: Millie Bright (Chelsea and England); Lucy Bronze (Manchester City and England); Rachel Daly (Houston Dash and England); Steph Houghton (Manchester City and England); Demi Stokes (Manchester City and England); Leah Williamson (Arsenal and England)
Midfielders: Sophie Ingle (Chelsea and Wales); Kim Little (Arsenal and Scotland); Jill Scott (Manchester City and England); Keira Walsh (Manchester City and England); Caroline Weir (Manchester City and Scotland)
Forwards: Lauren Hemp (Manchester City and England); Fran Kirby (Chelsea and England); Nikita Parris (Olympique Lyonnais and England); Georgia Stanway (Manchester City and England); Ellen White (Manchester City and England)
Reserve players: Sandy MacIver (Everton and England); Lotte Wubben-Moy (Arsenal and England); Niamh Charles (Chelsea and England); Ella Toone (Manchester United and England)
- Team GB 2020: who are the British athletes competing in the Tokyo 2021 Olympics?
The group-stage draw
Japan, Canada, Great Britain, Chile
China, Brazil, Zambia, Holland
Sweden, USA, Australia, New Zealand
GB v Chile, July 21 [8.30am BST]
Japan v GB, July 24 [11.30am BST]
Canada v GB, July 27 [12.00 midday BST]
Who are the medal contenders?
The USA are the most successful nation in the competition’s history with four gold medals and, with global stars including Megan Rapinoe, Sam Mewis and Alex Morgan, they will be the clear favourites once again.
Neither Germany nor Norway – the only other countries to have won the tournament – have qualified this time, but two-time silver medalists Brazil have strong pedigree, world-famous names including the legendary Marta, and are now coached by highly-respected former USA and Sweden coach Pia Sundhage.
Sweden beat England to finish third at the 2019 World Cup and will be a strong force yet again, while Canada and Australia – spearheaded by Chelsea striker Sam Kerr – will also pose significant threats – in what looks set to be a very competitive event.
After England reached the semi-finals of their past three consecutive major tournaments, GB will be under pressure to reach the latter stages and challenge for a medal, with Fifa Best Player of 2020 Lucy Bronze among their key players.
Their relatively kind draw arguably boosts their chances significantly, but Japan, Canada and Chile must not be underestimated.