It’s already been an intense summer of football, but as I type, Team GB are already in action again. The women’s Olympic football tournament is already underway, and Team GB is already ahead, kicking off their Olympic bid with a fantastic 2-0 win against Chile on July 21 — two whole days before the official Games begin in Tokyo.
The last time Team GB qualified and competed in the Olympics was in London 2012 and the team narrowly missed out on gold after being knocked out in the semi-finals — so it’s safe to say the pressure is on for 2021. So the pressure is there, but so is the potential. But how does women’s football work at the Tokyo Olympics, and what else should fans know?
What’s the format for the women’s football tournament?
As it goes, twelve qualifying football teams from across the world will be competing in three groups before the top teams from each group advance to the knockout stage. After the semi, quarter-final, and bronze medal matches, the two reigning teams will then battle it out in a final.
Interestingly, while in the mens’ event only three people over the age of 23 can compete for their country there are no such age restrictions in the women’s tournament.
Why is there no Team GB men's football side?
Per BBC Sport, 2012 was the first and only time Team GB put forward a men's team, “but subsequent attempts to re-form in 2016 were shelved after the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish football associations didn't back the plans and they haven't been tried again.” Because of England's failure to get out of the groups at the Under-21 Euros, Team GB wouldn't have qualified anyway.
Tokyo 2020 will be Great Britain's women's second appearance at the tournament.
What are the key dates for Team GB and the women's football tournament?
Team GB, who are in ‘Group E,’ has already kickstarted the tournament with a terrific match against Chile in Sapporo two days before the Tokyo Olympics gets underway on July 23.
They’ve not much time to rest and celebrate their win, as they’re due to play Japan on Saturday, July 24 (11 a.m. in the UK), followed by a match against Canada on July 27 (11:30 a.m.).
If the players are successful in their group and Team GB reaches the finals, those key dates are:
- Quarter-finals - Friday, July 30
- Semi-finals - Monday, August 2
- Bronze medal match - Thursday, August 5
- Final - Friday, August 6
Who are Team GB’s key players in the women’s football team?
This year’s Team GB squad boasts 18 talented players from across England, Scotland, and Wales, and there are plenty of big names to get to know.
Scotland’s Kim Little, England’s skipper Steph Houghton, and Sophie Ingle, who captains for Wales, will be sharing the Team GB captain role. Per Sky News, the players will wear the armband on rotation during the tournament.
Lucy Bronze, Jill Scott, Leah Williamson, Ellen White, and Fran Kirby are also tipped as players to watch.
Ellen White who scored both of Team GB’s goals during their first match of the tournament, has already thanked fans for their support, per BBC News, saying: "Thank you so much for supporting us. We appreciate it was early but we will do everything we can in this tournament and to do Team GB proud."
Lucy Bronze shared an epic photo of the team following their Wednesday win to Instagram, along with the strong and simple caption: “Proud.”
What are Team GB’s chances in the women’s football tournament?
Ask any football fan or pundit, and they’d likely say the U.S. team are the favourites to win the gold medal. After all, the American squad, which boasts star players such as Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan, and Carli Lloyd, had won the last two World Cups. However, as it currently stands, the team haven’t had a strong start and witnessed a 2-0 defeat against Sweden on July, 21 — five years after they lost to Sweden in Rio Olympics in 2016.
Meanwhile, Germany, reigning Olympic gold medalists, did not qualify for the tournament.
For Team GB, coach Hege Riise’s has sights firmly set on a gold medal and explained why setbacks to training due to the pandemic wouldn’t stop the team’s “fight.”
“We talked about this being a challenge, in a few months we've got to know each other as a team to fight for a gold medal," she said during a press conference. "It's a big task for us but I feel like we will take that fight and do whatever, we will focus on what we can do, how we will prepare, how well we are prepared.”
What else should fans know about Team GB?
Co-captain Steph Houghton said, via BBC News on Wednesday, July, 21 “Taking the knee was something we spoke about as a group. We feel so strongly and we want to show we're united.
"We want to fight all forms of discrimination and as a group of women we wanted to kneel against it."