Hege Riise felt selecting her Great Britain squad for the Tokyo Olympics was the most difficult decision she has had to make.
The British Olympic Association on Thursday announced an 18-strong women’s football squad for this summer’s delayed Games, plus four reserve players who will travel to Japan as back-up.
There are 15 England players in the squad, two from Scotland in Little and Caroline Weir and one from Wales in Sophie Ingle. There are no Northern Ireland players in the 22.
Alex Greenwood, Jordan Nobbs, Beth Mead and Beth England are among the notable omissions, while their fellow England player Chloe Kelly misses out after suffering an anterior cruciate ligament injury earlier this month.
Riise, GB head coach and England interim boss, told a press conference: “This has been the hardest decision I ever made, in respect of all the nations, great players to choose from.
“This has been an ongoing discussion. We had the medical, the physical, everyone, departments in to discuss and we ended with the squad now that we are very happy with, (its) strength, depth, and we are all excited now to get going.
“I’m comfortable that the selection we’ve done is a great group of players going into the Olympics. I don’t think we can say enough how proud we are going into the Olympics as Team GB.”
Asked about potentially winning gold in Tokyo, Riise – an Olympic champion as a player with Norway in 2000, and United States assistant boss when they triumphed at London 2012 – said: “That’s what we are planning for.
“You can never take away dreams. If you dream big, even better to achieve it. I think we all know we have little time to be the best team in the world, but we’ll take on that challenge and do the best we can.
“We hope to perform better and better together and hopefully at the end that we can be our best and see how far we get with that.”
She added: “This is the biggest tournament in history and to be a part of that is making me proud. I’m so happy for the girls that were selected and we are hopefully going to Tokyo to achieve something we all dream of.”
Manchester City are the club with the most squad representatives with 11, including Bardsley and Scott, who have been on loan at OL Reign and Everton respectively in recent months.
Bardsley gets the nod in the goalkeeping ranks alongside City’s Ellie Roebuck after last month making her first England appearance, as a substitute in the 2-0 friendly loss to Canada, since the 2019 World Cup.
FIFA player of the year for 2020 Lucy Bronze, England captain Houghton, White, Weir, Demi Stokes, Keira Walsh, Georgia Stanway and Lauren Hemp are also among the City contingent.
Wales skipper Ingle, who is set to become the first Welsh woman to play Olympic football, has two Chelsea team-mates included in Fran Kirby – the recently-named Football Writers’ Association player of the year – and Millie Bright. Arsenal have two players in the squad in Little and Leah Williamson, while Rachel Daly and Nikita Parris will join up from Houston Dash and Lyon respectively.
Sandy MacIver (Everton), Lotte Wubben-Moy (Arsenal), Niamh Charles (Chelsea) and Ella Toone (Manchester United) are the reserves.
GB are scheduled to begin their campaign by taking on Chile in Sapporo on July 21, then face hosts Japan at the same venue three days later. Their group fixtures conclude with a July 27 clash in Kashima with Canada, the team who eliminated Hope Powell’s GB side in the quarter-finals in 2012.
England’s recent loss to Canada at Stoke’s bet365 Stadium was the third of three friendlies for them with Riise in temporary charge, after Phil Neville – who had been in line for the GB job – stepped down as Lionesses boss in January.
They beat Northern Ireland 6-0 at St George’s Park in February and were then defeated 2-1 away by France just prior to the Canada match. Holland boss Sarina Wiegman is to start work as England’s new manager after the Olympics.