The Olympic Games are just months away but the Great Britain women’s football team are yet to confirm a head coach.
They will have just two training camps to prepare for the tournament under a new boss, while England’s national team – who are expected to make up the bulk of the squad – will play two friendly fixtures in February, their first matches in almost a year.
It is not ideal preparation but following Phil Neville’s departure as England coach, the Football Association can finally start making plans.
So what has it done so far? What is the selection criteria for the Team GB squad? And when can we expect it to be announced?
When will the squad be named?
Players from England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are available for selection.
The managers who were in charge of all four home nations at the start of 2020 were involved in drawing up a long list of players, which stands at about 50.
Northern Ireland boss Kenny Shiels is the only one of those managers still holding his position. Neville left the Lionesses to join Inter Miami, while former Scotland head coach Shelley Kerr stepped down in December, before Wales’ Jayne Ludlow left by “mutual consent” in January.
That long list is expected to be shortened to a 30-player shortlist in March, before the official squad announcement is made in May.
“It doesn’t mean that when we have that [shortlist in March], somebody can’t drop out,” said Baroness Campbell, the FA’s director of women’s football.
“But it will be a pretty good indicator of the type of player we’re looking for. We will have about 30-32 players, which we’re taking down to about 18.”
How will players be selected?
England interim manager Hege Riise named her first squad on Tuesday for the upcoming friendlies against Northern Ireland and Canada in February.
The selection process for that squad was with Team GB in mind and the FA has pointed out three categories that will be priorities in the summer.
- Physical condition – Team GB could play six games in 17 days in Tokyo. The FA is preparing for warm weather, humidity and hectic travelling schedules.
- Mental toughness – focusing on the quick turnaround of games and coping with potential setbacks during the tournament.
- Versatility – juggling a squad of just 18 means selection could depend on players’ ability to operate in several positions.
“People need to be playing week in and week out – that is really important to us,” said Campbell. “If they’re not playing, that conditioning is having to happen away from the games and I think that’s more challenging.
“We need people playing consistently – where they’re getting really good, strong competitive games.”
England midfielder Jill Scott recently joined Everton on loan from Manchester City in search of more game time, while Riise said Arsenal forward Beth Mead’s omission from the England squad had been affected by postponements for her side in the Women’s Super League.
Who will be on the coaching staff?
The biggest question remains – who will be in charge of Team GB?
Neville was set to lead the team before his England departure but his long-term replacement Sarina Wiegman will not join up with the squad until September, after managing current side the Netherlands at the Olympics.
That means interim boss Riise is favourite to lead Team GB and Campbell confirmed she will definitely be part of the coaching staff, though her exact role is yet to be decided.
Assistant Rhian Wilkinson could also be involved, while Northern Ireland boss Shiels and Chelsea manager Emma Hayes are other contenders.
Manchester United manager Casey Stoney has already ruled herself out of the running, saying she has “no intention” of leading Team GB.
Campbell said the head coach decision would be made after this month’s England friendlies.
How will the team prepare?
Unlike world champions the United States, who have had several international camps and will be competing at the SheBelieves Cup in February, the Great Britain squad will not get together until weeks before the tournament.
The FA says two training camps are already planned for and a friendly is in the calendar.
“Obviously, heat training is going to be a big part of that because we’re going to go into a very warm climate and a very humid climate and the players are going to be expected to play six games in 17 days, which is going to be incredibly challenging,” said Campbell.
The Olympic Games are set to start on 23 July and run to 8 August.