The stage is set. Tokyo will welcome this year’s Olympic Games in July after a year’s hiatus. Jumping on the plane to represent Great Britain this summer is Hege Riise and her 18-player football squad.
Steph Houghton, Jill Scott, Kim Little, Ellen White and Karen Bardsley are all preparing for their second Games after previously representing Team GB in 2012. As for the other 13 players, they will experience their first ever Olympics.
The makeup of the squad will feature 15 English players, two Scottish and one from Wales. A mammoth 11 Manchester City personnel have been called up to take their seat on the plane. Here’s what the 2020 Team GB squad had to say about their selection and whether the Brits can build on where they left off nine years ago.
Steph Houghton, Man City
“Being part of London 2012 and experiencing what the Olympic Games was like, I was so desperate to get selected for this one. Not just for me but the rest of the team we’re so proud to be able to represent Team GB.
“If I look back to 2012, I think we performed really well in the group stages but I look back at the game against Canada in the quarter-final back then and I know that it wasn’t the best version of us as a team. I look at the squad and the individuals that we have, I think it’s a squad full of quality, people that individually have played in big games – whether that’s a Champions League final or the highest games at the World Cup for their country. I think we’ve got the perfect blend of youth and experience.”
Fran Kirby, Chelsea
“I grew up watching the Olympics, I still watch the Olympics, it’s on TV all the time – all the different sports are going on and it’s just such an exciting time. It’s exciting to be a part of this Team GB history and it’s one that I’m really, really proud of and one that I know comes with a lot of responsibility.
“For me personally, I’m really excited to go and I feel like I’m in a good place going into the Games. Hopefully I can take my Chelsea form into Team GB and hopefully play well.
“Going into an Olympic Games, I don’t think any games are going to be easy. I think if you look at the groups, you can’t really tell who’s going to be a winner, who’s going to come second or who’s not going to get out of the group. But we want to get to the final, we don’t want to get to another semi-final or get knocked out earlier.”
Ellen White, Man City
“There’s so many memories from London 2012. A vivid one is Steph scoring at Wembley against Brazil and the crowd just erupting and it really just propelling women’s football. To say that I was a part of London 2012 is a real privilege and I’m really excited to make some incredible memories with this squad in Tokyo.
“I really believe in this team, in all the players and the staff. But 100 pe cent I have full belief in this team and every player and staff member. Hopefully we will do everything we can to perform to the best of our ability when we’re there.”
Sophie Ingle, Chelsea
As the only woman representing Wales on the Team GB roster, she hasn’t just set a milestone this year, but overall. Sophie Ingle will be the first Wales international to compete at the Olympics on behalf of Great Britain.
“It still doesn’t feel real,” the midfielder admitted. “I’m still shocked to be honest that I’m in the squad. There’s so many good players to choose from. I don’t know, maybe I should back myself more, but I honestly didn’t think I’d be in this squad but I’m going to grab this opportunity with both hands and give it everything I can for the team and hopefully we go on to win gold.
“I haven’t been to Japan before. I’m just really excited to get out there, it’s just a surreal feeling.”
Leah Williamson, Arsenal
“These are the type of moments that, when you’re younger, and you imagine in your career that these are boxes that you’ll end up ticking off, but then as you get older you realise ‘oh actually, that might not happen’. So to actually be here on a day like today, it’s literally beyond my wildest dreams.
“I think, when the list was sort of given out in terms of what they were looking for in a Team GB footballer, I just tried to tick as many of them off. So I know that I’m coming into the squad with great fitness, I can play in a lot of positions – which I used to curse my managers for, but I suppose it’s come in handy now. But I just think maybe just a bit of something new, to bring to the team, because I try to do it for England – a ball-playing centre-half – and just bringing that slightly different style to things, and maybe just the athleticism that I’ve worked on.”
Caroline Weir, Man City
Alongside 2012 competitor Kim Little, Caroline Weir will fly the flag for Scotland at this year’s Olympics.
“To put on a Team GB kit is something I never thought would happen or kind of dreamed of. I’ve wanted to play in World Cups and things like that, but you just don’t necessarily think Olympics. To be here alongside Kim [Little], it’s a huge honour and we’re both really excited to be here.
“I remember watching 2012 and I remember watching Kim and the team do so well in London. I think that’s what’s great about Team GB and the fact that there are Scots and Sophie Ingle is in the squad. Hopefully that will unite the home nations, and everyone can get behind us because it’s a strong squad and we really want to do a good job and hopefully bring something back.”
Lauren Hemp, Man City
At just 20 years of age, Lauren Hemp is the youngest member of the Team GB squad.
“I’m quite proud. I quite like being one of the young ones. I’m just going to go and absorb everything. If you’d told me about 10 years ago that in 10 years’ time I’d be competing at an Olympics aged 20 I probably wouldn’t have believed you. So it is pretty surreal and I just can’t wait to get going.
“As a young player, I feel like I am still quite confident going into the Games – I’m ready to prove why I should be there. I’m alongside some talented players and hopefully we’ll go on and achieve big things.”
Great Britain will kick off the tournament in July against Chile on the 24th, followed by hosts Japan on the 24th and Canada three days later.