Baroness Sue Campbell, the FA’s Director of Women’s Football, has admitted the British team flying out to Tokyo for the Olympic Games this summer will be predominantly English. With this in mind, the GiveMeSport Women team pick the non-English players they think should definitely be competing in the Japanese capital, and suggest those who have an outside chance.
Must be on the plane
Georgia’s pick – Caroline Weir
Caroline Weir is unarguably one of the best midfielders in England right now. Her control, creativity and eye for a world-class goal puts her up there as perhaps one of the most threatening midfielders in the world.
Since joining Manchester City, Weir has been solid and consistent with her performances in the middle of the park. According to FBref, the Scot contributed to five goals and five assists in her debut season, going on to bag three goals and five assists the following term. She is on track to beating her personal best this time round, with seven goals and three assists to her name already.
Not only would she bring the typical City flair to the Team GB table, but she never falters under pressure. In fact, she loves a big occasion. Her rocket strikes against Manchester United both this season and last show that she is cool and calm when her team needs her the most. Weir should be one of the first non-English names on Hege Riise’s squad list as we head into the Olympics.
Olly’s pick – Erin Cuthbert
Baroness Sue Campbell stressed that selectors are looking for versatility when it comes to picking the Team GB squad, and Erin Cuthbert has this in abundance.
Though she has started less regularly recently, this is largely due to the conveyor belt of world-class names at Chelsea’s disposal. Having featured in 14 games this season, it’s clear Emma Hayes still values Cuthbert as a vital part of her squad.
Proficient playing in a more attacking role as either a winger or a number 10, the Scot can also sit deeper if needed, and act as more of a box-to-box midfielder.
Her influence all over the pitch is telling when analysing her statistics. One league goal and four assists may not stand out on the surface, but combined with her defensive contributions (3.41 tackles per 90 minutes and 2.53 blocks) it’s clear how valuable she could be for Hege Riise this summer.
Cuthbert may not be a star name amid other distinguished figures who will feature in Tokyo, but her ability to play several positions could make her a skilled, adaptable and reliable option off the bench.
Aiden’s pick – Sophie Ingle
Sophie Ingle is a solid addition to any team. The Chelsea captain, who also wears the armband for Wales, has been a consistent starter for Emma Hayes’ side this season –– playing 23 games in all competitions.
The 29-year-old is in her second spell with the Blues and was voted their Players’ Player of The Year in 2019, after performing consistently in a holding midfield role.
She can play as a centre-back or in defensive midfield, making her an ideal candidate for the Team GB squad. Her versatility will allow Hege Riise to switch up her gameplans if need be.
Ingle can also pop up on the scoresheet from time-to-time. She was nominated for the 2020 FIFA Puskas Award for her goal against Arsenal last season, hitting a fantastic left-footed volley from distance.
Nancy’s pick – Kim Little
Kim Little was one of just two non-English players selected for London 2012, the first time Team GB contested the Olympic women’s football tournament. At 22-years-old, the Scottish midfielder played four matches at the Games as she helped Team GB to the quarter-finals. Nine years later, Little has to be back in the British squad.
When fit, the Arsenal captain runs the show, creating chances as often as she scores them. Since her second stint with the Gunners began in 2017, Little has hit the back of the net 42 times in her 84 appearances. Her performances are so crucial for Arsenal that the team has often struggled when forced to go without her this season. Little’s club-level relationship with other Team GB candidates, including Jordan Nobbs and Leah Williamson, would only be of benefit during Tokyo 2020.
Injuries are an issue for Little, however, and she is currently nursing a calf problem which has seen her out of action for some weeks. The 30-year-old faces a race against time to earn a place on the plane to Tokyo.
Georgia’s pick – Natasha Harding
The Reading skipper could be in with a good chance of making the cut for the Team GB roster. Not only is she an experienced Wales international, but she’s a veteran of the domestic game. Before moving to the Royals, Harding enjoyed spells with Man City and Liverpool and has played alongside some of the country’s best.
The 32-year-old’s versatility will also be a huge asset to Riise’s arsenal, as she will be able to provide cover for more than one position and switch up during play to catch the opposition off-guard. Although she is a winger by trade, Harding has played both in midfield and as a full-back, really showing off her ability to adapt to multiple situations.
Whilst she may not be the first name that comes to mind for Riise, the WSL icon would relish in the opportunity to represent her nation, after Wales recently failed to qualify for the upcoming Euros.
Olly’s pick – Lisa Evans
Similarly, Lisa Evans can play a number of positions, having featured mainly as a full-back for Arsenal this season, while operating in a more advanced attacking role on occasion.
Lucy Bronze is almost certain to start for Team GB at right-back if fully fit, but Evans would serve as a more than impressive back-up option.
The 28-year-old will face steep competition with the likes of Rachel Daly who could fulfil a similar role, but selectors may be drawn towards her international experience, having registered 83 caps for Scotland so far.
Evans’ recent form may also promulgate her as a suitable option. Two goals in as many goals against Aston Villa and Birmingham respectively has highlighted her capability going forward, while her strong defensive understanding with Leah Williamson –– another assured name in the squad, is yet another tick in the box.
Aiden’s pick – Hayley Ladd
Hayley Ladd is another name that could be part of the 18-woman Team GB squad. The 27-year-old, much like Ingle, can play in both the defensive backline and in midfield.
Described as a “selfless team player” by her club Manchester United, Ladd was named United’s Player of the Season last year after a brilliant debut campaign for the Reds.
She maintained her good for this term, netting once in the league and assisting her teammates on five occasions so far in 19 appearances in all competitions.
Her performances for United have earned her a new contract, extending her stay with the club until 2023.
Nancy’s pick – Jess Fishlock
Jess Fishlock has been outspoken about the need to ensure that Team GB is not made up of solely English players, previously calling for a coach who is not from one of the home nations. She now has that in the form of Norway’s Hege Riise, but Fishlock still faces a battle to make it onto the 18-player shortlist for the Olympic Games.
The 34-year-old has a wealth of experience, playing in star-studded teams at OL Reign, Melbourne Victory and Olympique Lyonnais. Fishlock’s time at the latter club included a UEFA Champions League title. She is now on loan at Reading and has been one of the stand-out players in an unpredictable WSL season for the Royals.
Fishlock is also the most capped Welsh player of all time, male or female, and would certainly be able to bring a degree of maturity to Team GB and act as a leader to younger players. If she is not selected, it will only be due to the calibre of the other British midfielders at Riise’s disposal.