New Team GB head coach Hege Riise targets Tokyo triumph

With the perfect blend of a winning mentality and Olympic experience, there is every reason to believe that Riise will be successful in Tokyo this summer, writes Amarachi Orie.

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Hege Riise is determined to go for gold in Tokyo this summer after being appointed head coach of Team GB’s women’s football team.

The 51-year-old took charge of the England team on an interim basis in January following the departure of Phil Neville. She will be assisted by Rhian Wilkinson, who she successfully partnered with at the Lionesses’ recent international camp.

And Riise – who won Olympic gold with Norway in 2000, the Euros in 1993 and the 1995 World Cup during her illustrious playing career – will draw on her wealth of major tournament experience in a bid to deliver glory for Team GB.

She said: “Coming from outside, I can pick the players that I believe can go into [the] Olympics and do some good things there.

“I’m pretty confident when we pick the team, this will be the team that we want and know for sure can be successful.

“We always want to aim for the big medal and of course we [will] look for opportunity to be the best team and that’s what we need to prepare for.”

Riise believes she can build on her flying start after England thrashed Northern Ireland 6-0 in her first match in interim charge behind closed doors at St George’s Park.

She added: “This is a great opportunity to continue the work that has been done going forward, to hopefully get fans to the stadium again and grow the game.

“I’m impressed with [how we dealt with] the difficulties we had with Covid. The players were so committed to what we wanted and also the staff were spot on with how we want to go forward.”

Team GB will face competition from the likes of Australia, Brazil, Canada, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, United States and Zambia this summer.

And former USA assistant coach Riise is wary of the threat of her old side who she helped guide to gold at London 2012.

She said: “You have the opportunity to be part of something bigger – this is a major tournament worldwide. I hope that [there] can be togetherness in support for this tournament and even going forward.

“US will be a hard team to beat. History-wise they won almost everything, but not so often the Olympics. So, this is an opportunity that we’ll take. And, of course, it’s 12 teams so it will be competition every game we play.”

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But the FA’s director of women’s football, Baroness Sue Campbell, is confident they have found the coach with the perfect blend of winning mentality and Olympic experience to triumph in Tokyo.

She said: “Hege actually applied to be the assistant coach to Phil and then he left and we asked Hege to step up. What was impressive was the style with which she did that.

“The manner with which she conducted herself and the humility which she demonstrates constantly – that kind of steely, winning internal engine she’s got – really impressed everybody.

“Our aspiration is to go there and win but this doesn’t mean we will be pressuring Hege or the staff. She is a winner. She knows what it is to win. She wants to win – and I think she will do everything in her power to win.”

The list of players being considered for the Tokyo Games will be shortened this week before the finalised Team GB squad is announced in May.

Follow Amarachi on Twitter @iamarachii

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