First British Olympics Women's Football Squad Unveiled
June 26, 2012
Hope Powell outside Wembley Stadium today (Getty)
(WFI) The first ever Team GB women's Olympic football squad was unveiled Tuesday at Wembley Stadium by the British Olympic Association.
The 18 players include only two non-English players, Scotland's Ifeoma Dieke and Kim Little.
The squad blends youth and experience. It includes 33-year-old striker Kelly Smith, the all-time leading goalscorer for England with 45 goals in 111 internationals. The Arsenal Ladies player overcame injury troubles to earn selection. Ellen White, Rachel Yankey, Stephanie Houghton and Kim Little were all part of the Arsenal Ladies squad that won the inaugural 2011 FA Women’s Super League.
Hope Powell will manage the side. She took charge of her 150th match as England's national coach against Slovenia last Thursday. Her first match overseeing Team GB will be a warm-up against Sweden at Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium on July 20, as part of a double-header which will also see the British men’s team face Brazil.
“Narrowing my squad down to 18 was very, very tough because of the caliber of player we’ve got coming through now," Powell said. "But we were very extensive in our scouting and our research and I believe we have got an excellent squad in terms of quality, balance and strength in depth. They are all current internationals with plenty of experience.
“This is a great chance for these players to be involved in something huge and it gives us a great platform to further raise the profile of the women’s game.”
Welsh and Northern Irish players are absent from the squad, and Powell insisted she felt under no pressure to select footballers from the four home nations.
"I was tasked with basically picking the best squad of players available to play and that's what I did," she told a press conference today.
Women’s football made its first appearance on the Olympic program at the 1996 Atlanta Games. London 2012 marks the first time that a Team GB women’s football team will compete at the Olympics.
Team GB's women kickstart the program of Olympics competition when they play New Zealand at the Cardiff's Millennium Stadium on July 25 - two days before the opening ceremony. Britain will take on Cameroon at the same venue on July 28, before completing their group stage fixtures against Beijing 2008 silver-medallists Brazil at Wembley on the July 31.
Andy Hunt, the British Olympic Association's chief executive and Team GB chef de mission, said: "Having the opportunity to field a women’s football team at the Olympics is a truly historic moment for us.
"The squad includes veterans that have played for some of the best club sides in the world, right through to those whose potential is still blossoming – but for all of them, the opportunity to represent Great Britain at a home Olympic Games is a new and unique experience. We all share their excitement in being part of the legacy of London 2012."
He added: “The whole country will be behind the team when they kick off against New Zealand, and hopefully they can set the tone for a successful Games by getting off to a winning start.”
The Olympic women’s football competition runs from July 25 to Aug. 9, with the gold medal match at Wembley that day.
Six venues will be used for both the men's and women's football tournaments: St James’ Park, Newcastle; Old Trafford, Manchester; Hampden Park, Glasgow; the City of Coventry Stadium; the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff and Wembley.
The 12 competing nations are divided into three groups of four, with the top two from each group and the two best third-placed teams qualifying for the knock-out quarter-final stage.
The U.S. are the most successful women’s football team in Olympic history, having won gold in three of the four tournaments to date. Norway, who triumphed at Sydney 2000, are the only other winners.
Unlike the men’s tournament there are no age restrictions for the selection of athletes for women’s football. The men's squads will mostly be comprised of U-23 players; three over-age players are allowed.
By INSIDER editor Mark Bisson
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