While the Man City striker will take the plaudits for her deadly double, Scottish additions Little and Weir shone along with Bronze against lowly Chile to show why Great Britain could be medal contenders, writes Jessy Parker Humphreys.
Team GB opened their Olympics campaign with a comfortable 2-0 win against Chile. Despite their opponents being ranked 31 places below them, it gave GB an opportunity to ease themselves into the competition, with some dangerous attacking play at points. Hege Riise stuck with her favoured 4-2-3-1 formation, with Caroline Weir partnering Keira Walsh in midfield, and Kim Little playing centrally, behind Ellen White. Lauren Hemp started on the left with Georgia Stanway on the opposite flank.
From the start, Kim Little looked extremely comfortable slotting into the side. Her calmness on the ball allowed her to combine regularly with Weir and White. The speed of passing between Weir and Little in particular saw them move seamlessly through the Chilean midfield, knowing that the ball out wide to Hemp would almost guarantee her going past the Chilean right-back Nayadez Lopez.
The only problem was that when Hemp went free, she looked to pull the ball back to Little or Stanway. It seemed as if GB were expecting Chile to play in a much lower block, and so were opting for longer shots in an attempt to pull them out – in reality there was more space available in the area if GB were willing to notice it. There were a couple of moments where it seemed they were going to get lucky with Chile’s goalkeeper, Christiane Endler, parrying the ball to the ever-eager White, but it was an unnecessarily haphazard tactic. Improving combinations in the penalty area will be essential if GB are going to do well at this tournament.
Instead then, it was left to Lucy Bronze who took the game by the scruff of the neck. Little and Weir will get a lot of focus from this game as the two main additions from the normal England line up, but it was Bronze who really excelled. Having said this week that she did not want to retire until she had won an international trophy, she went round Chile players with ease, carrying the ball either into midfield or down the right hand side. The first goal came from Hemp heading her cross back across the goal for White to tap in before White later rewarded another fine cross with an overhead finish. What is miraculous about Bronze’s crosses is that she can run onto them at full pelt before deftly floating them into the air to give her attackers time to take up the right position.
The same could not be said about GB’s left-hand side. Hege Riise’s decision to leave Alex Greenwood at home had already caused surprise, but leaving natural left-back Demi Stokes on the bench in order to play Rachel Daly has only added to the confusion. The logic might have been that Daly, given she normally plays as a forward, would offer the same kind of attacking pressure as Bronze given an assumption that Chile would look to sit back But Daly’s unfamiliarity with her defensive responsibilities led to her being cautious. There were a number of points where offering Hemp some support around the edge of the area would have made for an incisive attacking overload, but instead Daly held back.
Chile rarely looked like they would threaten GB but it would still have been a confidence boost for the side to come through the game without having to expend too much effort. The fact that later on Canada drew with Japan will have only added to GB’s good day. The opportunity for players like Steph Houghton, who has hardly played since March, to pick up some minutes will certainly be of benefit for the forthcoming matches. For all of GB’s promise, they will have to raise their level in future games. But if they can apply the speed and vision of passing that they showed in midfield to the penalty area, there is no reason to think they couldn’t have one eye on a medal.
Follow Jessy on Twitter at @jessyjph