Olympics: Preview Notes – Great Britain (Group E)

WAIT, “GREAT BRITAIN?” — In FIFA there is no “Great Britain,” as each of Great Britain’s four constituent countries, England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, all have their separate federations. But, with London being the host city, and its country’s Olympic team being Great Britain, not England, the home team could only compete under the Union Jack, not St. George’s Cross. And, due to the fact that none of the four confederations really like the idea of unitary Great Britain soccer teams, these teams are the soccer equivalent of a shotgun wedding that gets annulled in a month and is never spoken about again.

  • How They Qualified: Host (Automatic)
  • FIFA Rank: #9 (England)
  • Previous Olympics: None
  • 2011 WWC Performance: Quarterfinals, lost to France on penalties (England)
  • Key Players: Kelly Smith (forward), Jill Scott (midfielder), Karen Bardsley (goalkeeper), Kim Little (midfielder)
  • Head Coach: Hope Powell (Great Britain)
  • Team Captain: Casey Stoney
  • Recent Form: T, W, W*, W* (*England matches)
  • Group Finish Probabilities: 1st, 45%; 2nd, 40%; 3rd, 10%; 4th, 5%
  • Medal Chances: Decent

So, “Great Britain” is really England plus a couple Scotland players who have defied their Highland lords and temporarily defected to this unholy union. And, since this squad is ninety-percent England, and is coached by England’s coach, Hope Powell, it will likely exhibit a lot of England’s qualities. For good, and for worse.

At last year’s Women’s World Cup (FIFA.com), England won its group, in part due to a win over eventual champions Japan (FIFAtv highlights), but England got a slow start out of the gate drawing 1:1 with Mexico (FIFAtv highlights) and coming back from an early 1:0 deficit to barely beat New Zealand 2:1.

Once again, England a mostly English squad finds itself in the same group as New Zealand, though this time the Football Ferns have a bit more self-confidence, especially after their wins against China in June.

But, back to last year’s Women’s World Cup, England, as Group B winners, advanced to the quarterfinals, where they played the second-place team from Group A, France. And, that did not go so well. England scored first, in the 59th minute, on a Jill Scott strike, but Elise Bussaglia equalized via an opportune beauty for France in the 88th minute. With no goals scored in extra time, the two teams went to penalties, the nightmare of all true England fans.

Things were looking good after England’s keeper, American-born Karen Bardsley, blocked France’s first attempt by Camille Abily, but misses by Claire Rafferty and captain Faye White, saw France advance to the semifinals, while England went home early. (FIFAtv highlights)

The loss on penalties turned into a minor debacle after Fleet Street latched onto a “cowardice” quote by Powell regarding some players’ unwillingness to volunteer for the penalty shootout (UK Guardian). At that time, it appeared that Powell, who had coached England for thirteen years was on her way out. But, no, Hope Powell stayed in her job and got a side gig, coach of Great Britain’s women’s soccer team.

GROUP CHANCES — So, either this mostly English “Great Britain”squad, buoyed by the home crowds in half-empty stadiums, will comfortably advance to the group stage via an opening win against New Zealand and followed up by a win over Cameroon, which combined will earn them 6 points, which should reasonably guarantee Great Britain at least a wild card berth in the quarterfinals…

…Or, they won’t. New Zealand could eke out a draw or even a tight win in the opener. And, then Cameroon, if they have their act together, could do the same in the second match. Then, Great Britain could find themselves in a must-win match against an untypically weak Brazil squad.

However, the more probable result is somewhere in the middle. A win against Cameroon seems to be the most likely result among the three matches. And, Brazil is definitely beatable, so a slow start via a draw or even a loss against an upstart New Zealand should be far from fatal.

RECENT MATCHES — The Great Britain WNT has only played one official friendly, an uninspiring 0:0 draw against Sweden, who with all their injury woes was also missing Lotta Schelin. Before that, Great Britain played South Africa in an unofficial closed-door match, winning 3:1 via goals from Kim Little, Rachel Yankey, and Karen Carney (PK). And, that’s it, because none of the football overlords in the Home Countries really wish to see a united Great Britain team succeed.

Although, the reason for so few matches can be partially explained by Women’s Euro qualifying matches in June. Among those teams competing was England, who provide a proxy for Great Britain. On June 17th, England beat the Netherlands 1:0 via a quickly taken Rachel Yankey free kick. Then, on June 21st, England defeated Slovenia 4:0 on goals from Alex Scott (29′, 43′), Karen Carney (54′), and Rachel Williams (85′).

INJURIES — Veteran striker Kelly Smith is just getting back from a stress fracture in a leg that was worsened by an unnecessary injury during a photo-shoot in April (BBC).

OTHER ROSTER NOTES — Not with the team is veteran England captain Faye White announced her retirement earlier this year (BBC), as she is with child… Scotland’s Ifeoma Dieke was born in Massachusetts to Nigerian parents, but grew up in Scotland, attend Florida International University, and went on to play with the Chicago Red Stars and the Boston Breakers in the WPS (Wikipedia profile).

LAST LINE-UP (vs. Sweden, starting) — Listed as a 4-2-3-1 (thenorthernecho.co.uk):

Bardsley (GK)
A. Scott (RB) — Stoney (CB) — Dieke (CB) — Houghton (LB)
J. Scott (CM) – Asante (HM)
Aluko (RM) — Little (AM) — White (LM)
Smith (FW)

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See Also:

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