Northern Ireland snub in Team GB squad is bitter blow after remarkable year

An 18-strong squad selected by coach Hege Riise and announced by the British Olympic Association will travel to the Tokyo 2020 Games

Friday, 28th May 2021, 8:43 am
Northern Ireland players celebrate victory in the UEFA Women's Euro 2022 play-off match against Ukraine. None of their players have been selected for Team GB.

The infamous GIF of Alan Partridge shrugging his shoulders was perhaps an accurate summary of the thoughts of many when the Team GB women’s football squad dropped this morning.

Hege Riise has named a talented squad for the 2020 Olympics, of that there is no doubt, but it’s a predictable one.

This was always going to be a decision where the focus was on those who missed out. And there were plenty of notable absentees.

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Ex-Norway midfielder Hege Riise will lead Team GB into the Tokyo Olympics.

Erin Cuthbert, Alex Greenwood, Jordan Nobbs and Beth England are among those who will undoubtedly feel aggrieved not to have secured a place on the plane.

In many ways, the fact that such top quality players have been omitted from the squad is indicative of the strength of women’s football across the home nations. After all, Riise faced a tough task whittling down a long list which may well have reached three figures into a final squad of 18 players.

But in the end, it was a very predictable squad.

A number of regulars from England’s national team are included, along with Kim Little and Caroline Weir of Scotland and Wales’ Sophie Ingle.

Northern Ireland and Liverpool star Rachel Furness has missed out on a place in the squad.

Experience and versatility seem to have been the order of the day, which makes it even more perplexing as to why Nobbs and Greenwood have been excluded.

Greenwood in particular could have proven an excellent option across the backline, and her set piece delivery alone would have made her worthy of a place on the plane.

And in Nobbs, one of the nation’s mercurial talents will be left at home.

While it is pleasing to see two of the home nations represented in the squad, it is something of a disappointment that there is no representation from Northern Ireland.

Kim Little of Scotland is in the 18-man squad.

Kenny Shiels’ side have enjoyed a remarkable year, qualifying for their first major tournament, but are not represented in the squad.

Rachel Furness is the name on many people’s lips, and she certainly could have been added to the squad without compromising on quality.

The same could be said of Scotland's Cuthbert, who has once again shone for Chelsea amid their successful domestic campaign.

It’s also disappointing that many of the up-and-coming talents across the nations have not been given an opportunity to shine on the world stage.

Chelsea's Scottish forward Erin Cuthbert (left) has missed out.

Niamh Charles has been a regular alongside Cuthbert on the blue side of London while Sandy MacIver is making inroads into the England national team after a fine campaign at Everton.

That reserve list does offer a glimpse into the future of the England national team – with Charles, MacIver, Ella Toone and Lotte Wubben-Moy all likely to be key parts of the Lionesses’ squad moving forward.

This will be an invaluable experience for them, but the precarious nature of the Team GB women’s football programme means there is no guarantee that they will have the opportunity to form part of the full squad when the Olympics come around again in 2024.

That very fact meant this was always going to be a squad that caused a great deal of debate.

Is this a group of players that will be able to tackle Chile, Japan and Canada in the group stages? Undoubtedly so.

But ahead of next summer’s European Championships, it’s perhaps disappointing that we haven’t seen seen some of the players likely to be involved in that tournament included.

That suggests Team GB’s focus is certainly on winning in Tokyo this summer – and that would certainly have a major impact on the women’s game across the UK.

We saw the boom that followed the 2012 Olympics, and similar could follow if Team GB have a successful tournament this time around.

But the perception of success has changed since then.

Now, nothing other than a run to the latter stages of the tournament – and medals – is the aim.

The focus is on Riise to deliver that.

Team GB women’s football squad:

Goalkeepers: Karen Bardsley (Man City/England), Ellie Roebuck (Man City/England).

Defenders: Millie Bright (Chelsea/England), Lucy Bronze (Man City/England), Rachel Daly (Houston Dash/England), Steph Houghton (Man City/England), Demi Stokes (Man City/England), Leah Williamson (Arsenal/England).

Midfielders: Sophie Ingle (Chelsea/Wales), Kim Little (Arsenal/Scotland), Jill Scott (Man City/England), Keira Walsh (Man City/England), Caroline Weir (Man City/Scotland).

Forwards: Lauren Hemp (Man City/England), Fran Kirby (Chelsea/England), Nikita Parris (Lyon/England), Georgia Stanway (Man City/England), Ellen White (Man City/England).

Reserves: Sandy MacIver (Everton/England), Lotte Wubben-Moy (Arsenal/England), Niamh Charles (Chelsea/England), Ella Toone (Man Utd/England).