Tokyo 2020 squads: The difference makers

  • Squads announced for Women’s Olympic Football Tournament

  • 12 teams competing from 21 July to 6 August

  • highlights the key players to watch in each team

One of the most anticipated competitions in the women’s game is almost here. The official squad lists for the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament Tokyo 2020 were released today, marking a pivotal point in the build-up to the event. The top players from around the globe will be going for gold as they compete across seven venues in six host cities. highlights a key player from each team to watch.

Group E

Japan: One of two players on the squad to have played on the 2011 Women’s World Cup™-winning side (Mana Iwabuchi is the other), Saki Kumagai is the heart and soul for the Nadeshiko. As captain and one of the most experienced players on a youthful squad, Kumagai is Asako Takakura’s coach on the pitch. The centre-back recently secured a move to Bayern Munich after spending eight successful seasons with Olympique Lyonnais, so she will be fully focused on getting her team on the podium in front of their home fans.

Canada: When you have the top international goalscorer of all-time - male or female - on your squad, quite simply, that’s your most important player. Christine Sinclair will celebrate an incredible milestone at Tokyo 2020 as she will reach her 300th cap for the national team. Coach Bev Priestman will rely on a core of seasoned veterans, including Sophie Schmidt and Desiree Scott to lead the team in Tokyo, but Sinclair will be the one to put the team on her back in the toughest moments. The natural goalscorer’s record speaks for itself: 299 games played, 186 goals scored.

Great Britain: Hege Riise and Team GB can boast The Best FIFA Women’s Player Lucy Bronze among their ranks. The full-back and versatile Manchester City player will be one of the first names on Riise’s team-sheets in Japan. A pure competitor, Bronze will be eager to add an Olympic team medal to a CV packed full of individual accolades.

Chile: One of the game’s top goalkeepers, Christiane Endler is undoubtedly Jose Letelier’s taliswoman. Endler was central to securing Chile’s first-ever ticket to the Games as La Roja were the final team to do so, edging Cameroon in the intercontinental play-offs. A complete keeper, Endler commands her area well and is a calming and assured presence for her team. While Kumagai has left Olympique Lyonnais, Endler recently signed with the French powerhouses from rivals PSG.

RENNES, FRANCE - JUNE 09: Christiane Endler of Chile poses for a portrait during the official FIFA Women's World Cup 2019 portrait session at Best Western Plus Hotel Isidore on June 09, 2019 in Rennes, France. (Photo by David Ramos - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

Group F

China PR: Wang Shuang was China PR’s hero in booking their place at Tokyo 2020, crucially scoring in extra time against Korea Republic in the play-offs. Like Chile, Coach Jia Xiuquan’s side endured a mentally-gruelling year as their play-off was delayed multiple times due to the pandemic. However, they came out the other side stronger, which will be a big boost to the Steel Roses, and Wang Shuang was central to their qualification journey.

Brazil: What hasn’t been written about Marta? An icon to many of the players she will come up against in Japan, Marta is still capable of producing magic on the biggest of stages. A Seleção’s captain, Marta will be determined to lead her nation to a first gold medal. They’ll be buoyed by having someone on the touchline who has been there and won it in coach Pia Sundhage.

Zambia: The CAF Women’s Olympic Qualifiers top scorer with eight goals, Grace Chanda will be key if the debutants are to have a successful campaign. Bruce Mwape will also be relying on captain Barbara Banda to lead the Copper Queens on and off the pitch, but it’s their No10 who will carry the greatest goal threat to Brazil, China and the Netherlands in the group. Chana is capable of scoring from distance, from set-pieces, and with her head, and she is also a natural creator with a keen eye for making decisive passes in the final third.

Netherlands: Sarina Wiegman has the core of her squad intact from the 2019 Women’s World Cup Final and the Orange Lionesses will be one of the contenders in Japan. Lieke Martens is in the prime of her career, and coming off the back of a UEFA Women’s Champions League-winning campaign with Barcelona, she will be full of confidence. A dynamic forward player, typically playing off the left flank, Martens is one of the best one-on-one attackers in the game. 

Group G

Sweden: Caroline Seger has been synonymous with Swedish success in the past two decades. A battle-hardened midfielder who knows how to manage games well both mentally and tactically, she recently became the most-capped player in European history. Preparing for her fourth Olympic Games, Seger will be determined to go one step further than the silver-medal finish she experienced at Rio 2016, which included a famous win on penalties against USA, coincidentally the Swede’s first opponents in Japan. 

USA: It’s nearly impossible to hone in on one key player for the two-time Women’s World Cup holders, with game-changing talent throughout Vlatko Andonovski’s squad. However, judging by her performances at France 2019, Megan Rapinoe is always a force to be reckoned with. She’s a player and person who relishes the spotlight and has shown time and time again that she can deliver in crunch time. Whether she starts or comes off the bench, it would be far from a surprise to see her epic goal celebration, make an appearance at the Olympics. 

Australia: If Tony Gustavsson’s Matildas are going to make a deep run into the tournament, they will need Sam Kerr to have packed her finishing boots. Now the team captain and in her playing prime, Kerr is only five goals away from equalling Lisa De Vanna’s all-time goals record for Australia. Kerr is a generational talent who is coming off a season with Chelsea where she won the FA WSL’s Golden Boot award, scoring 21 goals in 22 games, making her the first player to win the golden boot award in three different leagues.

New Zealand: One of the most experienced and natural defenders in the game, Abby Erceg will be central to Tom Sermanni’s plans. The first player, male or female, to reach 100 caps for New Zealand, Erceg has spent the most recent phase of her club career bringing titles to North Carolina Courage in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL). Tokyo 2020 will be the centre-back’s fourth Olympic Games.