Hege Riise has sights set on Olympic gold with Great Britain team

Phil Medlicott, PA
·4-min read

Hege Riise insists the goal is “the big medal” after the Norwegian was appointed as head coach of the Great Britain team for this summer’s Tokyo Olympics.

The Football Association confirmed on Wednesday the GB side will be managed by current England Women interim boss Riise, who was put in temporary charge of the Lionesses after Phil Neville stepped down in January.

Riise told a virtual press conference: “I think this is an adventure, but we travel to win.

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

When asked about non-English players’ chances of being in the team, Riise said: “They all have a chance.

“We have been watching all the games. We have put together a list of players that we follow closely. For sure, we will look at all the players, to pick the best squad going to the Olympics.”

Riise – who oversaw England thrashing Northern Ireland 6-0 in a friendly at St George’s Park last month – was part of the Norway team that won Olympic gold at the 2000 Games in Sydney, and she was United States assistant boss when they were crowned champions at London 2012.

The 51-year-old will be assisted by former Canada international Rhian Wilkinson, as she has been in the England set-up, with a further coach to be announced in due course, the FA said.

Baroness Sue Campbell, the FA’s director of women’s football, spoke on Wednesday of Riise’s Olympic experience and the impressive impact she and Wilkinson had made during England’s February camp.

And regarding England’s ‘leadership team’ of players, Campbell said: “I felt it was important to talk to them and get a sense from them whether they wanted yet anther transition, another coach.

“And after the February camp they were unanimous that they felt the combination of Hege and Rhian was a really successful one for them during that camp and that they would prefer to grow that and develop that.

England interim boss Riise oversaw the Lionesses beating Northern Ireland 6-0 last month (FA handout).
England interim boss Riise oversaw the Lionesses beating Northern Ireland 6-0 last month (Handout/FA/PA)

“They reflected back to me what they felt would be in the best interests of success in Tokyo.”

She added: “Our aspiration is to go there and to win. That doesn’t mean we’ll 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’ll do everything in her power to win.”

Campbell said there were “other people who expressed interest to me (about the role) and I spoke to all of them”.

When asked if an opportunity had been missed in terms of developing a British coach in the role, Campbell said: “The GB coaches that had the ability and experience to take us, in my view, to an opportunity to win are committed to their own clubs.

“And one of the challenges of using one of those coaches would be the data and information they would have had on players from other clubs.

“I have every confidence we’ve made the right choice.”

She would not be drawn on whether Shelley Kerr or Jayne Ludlow, the former bosses of Scotland and Wales respectively, had been in the reckoning.

While Campbell said the “majority of the squad will be English”, she added: “This is a unique and amazing opportunity for people to go and experience something that is probably the greatest sporting show on earth.

“We want any player from anywhere within Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England who has the desire and aspiration to be part of this team to get a fair opportunity to be part of it.”

Neville had been in line for the GB job before he left his England role to take charge at Major League Soccer outfit Inter Miami.

Riise is England’s interim head coach ahead of Holland boss Sarina Wiegman taking the reins on a permanent basis in September.