Team GB’s involvement at the Olympic Games’ Women’s Football Tournament begins this week with Hege Riise’s side set to face Chile in their opening game in Sapporo on Wednesday.
Following the Chile game, the team then take on Japan and Canada as they look to secure qualification from their group.
Who are the players to watch on the opposing sides during Team GB’s group campaign? FAWSL Full-Time have been monitoring Chile, Japan and Canada’s results closely in recent weeks and here are our selections.
Christiane Endler (Chile)
Group minnows Chile have a squad which is largely made up of players who play their football within their home nation. Of the 22 players selected by head coach Jose Letelier, 16 do not currently play outside of Chile.
The jewel in the Chilean crown is undoubtedly goalkeeper Christiane Endler who is the nation’s most-decorated player. The keeper is Chile’s record appearance holder with 76 caps and she comes into the tournament in good form for her country having kept clean sheets in two of her last three games.
At club level, Endler was named the French Division 1 Feminine’s Goalkeeper of the Year last season while she also made the league’s Team of the Year. She is a player who is enjoying a fine run of form,
Mana Iwabuchi (Japan)
Host nation Japan went 13 months without a competitive game but when they returned to action, one player has shone more than any other, that player being Arsenal’s summer signing Mana Iwabuchi.
The forward has been an all-round exceptional team player, scoring goals and being involved in the creation of a number of others. Iwabuchi has scored six goals in five games for Japan since April while she has contributed five assists. The stats show that Iwabuchi has been directly involved in almost 40% of the 28 goals scored by Japan in their last five matches. It should be noted that the forward has been substituted in each of those games.
Iwabuchi is proving to be a very dangerous player. She is one who will excite Arsenal fans but has the potential to send shivers down the spines of those supporting Team GB this summer.
Shelina Zadorsky (Canada)
It has been a challenging start for Canada head coach Bev Priestman who initially had to work with a much-depleted squad before finally getting some fit players back.
Throughout the nation’s preparation for the Olympic Games, defender Shelina Zadorsky has proved to be a model of consistency. Zadorsky has been a rock at the back for Canada despite playing alongside a number of different centre-back partners.
Canada have kept clean sheets in each of Zadorsky’s last three games, stifling England and Brazil. The nation’s defensive stability when Zadorsky is on the pitch is no coincidence, the player is in fine form for her country.
Team GB’s Group E opener against Chile in Sapporo kicks-off at 8.30AM (BST) on Wednesday.