Into the unknown we went – a delayed Olympics during a pandemic; an empty Sapporo Dome; a Team GB team the world had yet to see play. The build-up has been a long one. Decisions have been analysed to death and media days have been plenty but now was the time for the talking to stop and the action to start; for Team GB to set out their stall and try and put some of the less positive whispers to bed.
When thinking about Team GB’s chances in this tournament, it was hard not to be influenced by previous Lionesses’ performances. England’s run of form has been so poor for a non-trivial amount of time and with the majority of their players making up Team GB, you couldn’t help having a little feeling of trepidation as the tournament commenced.
But those worries were quickly put to bed by the energetic start Hege Riise’s charges made to the game. Kim Little and Caroline Weir slotted into the midfield as if they had always been there and there was a flow about Team GB’s forward play that we have not seen for quite some time. They controlled the ball throughout, with Little the lynchpin in the middle, and it was only a matter of time for the goals to start coming. Ellen White opened her account, poking home Lauren Hemp’s assist in the 18th minute. Her second came with 15 minutes to play as she swept home a lovely dinking cross from Lucy Bronze. In all honestly, so dominant were they on the ball that they should have scored more. Riise herself picked this up in post-match as the main thing to work on ahead of Japan on Saturday: “I asked for a good start, and we made it a great start. The first 30 minutes is the best attacking football we played, creating a lot of chances. And to work on going forward is the ruthlessness in the box to score even more goals.” Overall, however, they couldn’t have asked for a better start as they head into sterner tests.
Player of the Match
A close-run decision with several stand-out performances across the park. Bronze and Little both shone but our player of the match was Lauren Hemp. In the first half, she terrorised the Chilean right back with her pace and distribution in the box. Her leaping header at the far post set up the opener for White. She faded a little in the second period, having switched sides with Stanway, but was still dangerous on the break before being replaced by Nikita Parris.
“I’m happy with the team performance and there will always be players that make something special. And today on the left side, Lauren did that, 1v1 all the time to get in the box and serve in the box.”
Hege Riise on Lauren Hemp
- Midfield balance: As Casey Stoney said on the BBC at half-time Riise got the balance of her midfield absolutely perfect. Their composure on the ball throughout was integral to the team’s success. In Keira Walsh, Caroline Weir and Kim Little, you have three players who can affect the play. Walsh was spraying her trademark passes around, Little was the pivotal point in the middle and Weir displayed her technical attributes throughout. The relationships between the trio were clear to see and when Ingle replaced Walsh late on, she fitted seamlessly into the mix.
- Dealing with the low block: Team GB used their width well to deal with Chile’s low block. The pace of both Lauren Hemp and Lucy Bronze on either flank stretched the play and created the spaces as they moved forward. Both players registered an assist to mark their significant contribution to the result.
- Ellen White off the mark: As a goal scorer, making your mark early on a tournament is key to your confidence. White’s main role in this team is to hit the back of the net but she also worked so hard off the ball to create the spaces in the penalty box. Both finishes were trademark striker goals and Riise was pleased with her effort throughout: “We trust Ellen to score a goal and she does. But not only the goals; she fought hard. She worked for 90 minutes to get a goal or other players in. So, she’s important for this team and brings a lot of confidence as well to the team.”
- Why are we waiting? Just a note on the length of time we had to wait for the referee to set up corners and free kicks. It did not help the game to flow. In addition, VAR checks were considerably slower than at the Euros say last month. Something for FIFA and the officials to work on.
- China 0-5 Brazil
- Sweden 3-0 USA
- Japan 1-1 Canada
- Zambia 3-10 Netherlands
- Australia 2-1 New Zealand