Hege Riise’s Team GB women’s football team is now in full preparation for this summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo.
This is only the second time that a team has signed up for the competition: it was a requirement as host of London 2012, but an agreement could not be found between the national associations to field a team in 2016.
Manchester City midfielder Caroline Weir is one of only three non-England players to have been called up. Her first appearance in the Olympics is something she considers one of the best achievements of her career.
âFor me personally, it’s one of my proudest accomplishments to be selected for this team, just because I knew how competitive it was,â she said. âObviously we were thinking about it last season, and then it was postponed, so we had a full season to play for selection.
âSo for me it was quite a challenge not to think about it too much, but it was always in the back of my mind. I am very proud to be here, I am very proud to have been selected alongside such a talented group of people and players, some of whom I play with at club level.
Riise, who is also England’s interim head coach, faces a challenge perhaps unique to her team: She must build a winning squad in just a matter of weeks. They have a warm-up match – against Zambia on July 1 – but that’s it before they go to Japan.
Is this really a concern for the players, or rather a chance not to replicate many of the longstanding problems England have had? âI think that’s definitely one of our challenges ahead. But I also think it’s an opportunity: we’re starting over, it’s a clean slate, it’s a new team, âcontinues Weir.
âWe all know each other as players, we play against each other if not as teammates it’s about spending time on the pitch. Outside the field too, it is important, there are various things that we will be doing, meetings and workshops. Where it counts, in the field, we will do a lot of training, a lot of tactical meetings.
Due to the pandemic, England have not played an away game since March 2020, when they played in the SheBelieves Cup in the United States. With international fixtures being limited at home, team GB players have not been able to test themselves in an environment similar to Japan where the heat will be another challenge for the players.
In 2017, Rachel Daly collapsed from heat exhaustion during a game for the Houston Dash and had to be rushed to hospital. Since then, the defender – who plays as a forward for her national team – has learned to handle the heat and she believes the GB team have the right structures in place to do so as well.
“I don’t think I can remember what it was for obvious reasons,” she reveals. âIt was tough, I think the heat definitely plays a big role. I’ve learned over the past few years how to handle it and think I’m really good with it now.
âI think back then I was a little naive about heat and humidity. It was a kick off at 3 in the afternoon in the height of summer so it was tough. The strategies we have put in place here to acclimatize and the ones I have followed over the past few years [will help]. It’s tough, but it’s how you deal with it, how you get used to it, and how you can adapt.
Another advantage that Daly has over the rest of her teammates is that she is currently in top form. The US NWSL is having a summer season so they are currently playing regular football, while their teammates have taken a few weeks off.
âI feel good, I feel fit, I feel healthy,â she adds. âI think the heat definitely plays a role for me, I feel sharp, I can deal with acclimatization and stuff like that. It’s not really me in training camps usually and then in other training camps, I’m usually in my offseason and the other girls are in their season so it’s good to have the reverse for me and to feel ready to go. “
For the rest of the squad, who have already faced a busy national schedule, many have struggled to rest. Sophie Ingle, for whom the problem is exacerbated due to Chelsea’s progress to the Champions League final, is one of them.
“I would like to say that I have [managed to rest] but I didn’t, âIngle told media. âIt’s been an eventful season, a lot of games, obviously ending our season much later because of the Champions League. Then I got, I think, about eight days off, so I had a little break. More mentally, I think you have to give up football and be ready to recover and start again.
âI did a few small sessions before heading back to the Welsh camp and then luckily I was out for ten days so I had some training under my belt. But again, this has been gradual and limited due to the early days of return. I had a day off after camp to join the GB team, but again we’ve been managed and in training, so it’s really interesting the last few weeks.
As the Euro is in full swing, the British public have been treated to the opinion of one of the greatest tactical minds in women’s football in recent weeks: Emma Hayes. Ingle is coached by her at club level and is by no means surprised at the praise she has received for her work on ITV.
” I do not have [watched any games Hayes been on] but I saw that she was trending on Twitter, which doesn’t surprise me, âshe says. âShe’s obviously a really good coach and she’s tactically aware of the game and she has such good insight when she watches the game. It’s just showing the world now how good she is.