Tokyo Olympics: What to expect in the women's football tournament

By Emma SandersBBC Sport
Team GB squad in training
Team GB are entering a women's team in the Olympics for just the second time

The Olympics officially start in Tokyo on 23 July - but football, one of 33 sports to feature at the Games, kicks off two days earlier.

Team GB have entered a women's team for the second time - and first since 2012, where they reached the quarter-finals in London.

Their first game will take place on 21 July against Chile in Sapporo.

Here is everything you need to know before the competition.

What is the format?

The women's football competition was added at the Atlanta 1996 Games.

Unlike the men's event, where only three players over the age of 23 can represent their country, there are no restrictions for the women.

It is a 12-team event with a round-robin group stage followed by a knockout stage.

The top two teams from each of the three groups will advance to the quarter-finals, as well as the top two third-place finishers.

  • Quarter-finals - Friday, 30 July
  • Semi-finals - Monday, 2 August
  • Bronze medal match - Thursday, 5 August
  • Final - Friday, 6 August
Kirby 'massively proud' to be selected for GB Olympic squad

There will be no GB men's team - they have not featured since their London 2012 appearance - but the women's side returns. Their first Games ended in defeat by Canada in the quarter-finals in 2012.

After failing to reach agreement with all four nations in 2016, Team GB did not enter the event in Rio but the Football Association was joined in approval from the other associations this time - and England sealed qualification on behalf of Team GB with a fourth-placed finish at the 2019 World Cup.

With a home European Championship taking place in England next year, the FA is hoping Team GB pick up a medal in Tokyo to further enhance the rapidly growing women's game.

England and Arsenal defender Leah Williamson said: "To actually be here, with a Team GB squad even available to be in, it's literally beyond my wildest dreams.

"Growing up, this was always something that felt like it was slightly further away, and that gave me all the more reason to want to achieve it.

"We'll be going to win it, why wouldn't we? We have to have those ambitions because of the talent that's in the squad."

Who are Team GB playing?

Team GB fixtures graphic

Team GB have been drawn in Group E and play Chile, ranked 37th in the world, in their opening game on 21 July in Sapporo - live on BBC Two from 08:15 BST.

They face hosts and former world champions Japan on 24 July in Sapporo, before taking on two-time bronze medallists Canada in Kashima on 27 July.

An 18-player squad was originally selected, including 15 from England, two from Scotland and one from Wales, but that number has now increased to 22 which includes the four named on the reserve list.

No players from Northern Ireland are in the squad.

How prepared are the nations?

Team GB training camp at St George's Park
Team GB had a training camp at St George's Park after their friendly with Zambia was cancelled

Team GB have not had the best preparation, with Covid-19 restrictions playing their part.

An arranged friendly against Zambia, set to take place in Stoke on 1 July, was called off by their opponents.

Instead, they played a behind-closed-doors match against New Zealand on arrival in Japan on 14 July after preparing at a St George's Park training camp.

England, who make up the bulk of the squad, have played just three friendlies since the SheBelieves Cup in March 2020.

They included a 6-0 victory over 48th-ranked Northern Ireland and defeats by France and Canada.

USA, the current world champions, have played seven games since April, winning six and conceding just one goal.

Hosts Japan have also won their five warm-up friendlies, scoring 28 goals in the process, while European champions, the Netherlands, have lost two and won two - although their arranged July friendly with South Africa was cancelled.

Team GB's Group E opponents Canada - the 2016 bronze medallists - have drawn their last two games, after wins over Wales and England in April.

Reigning Olympic gold medallists Germany have not qualified for the Games.

Which players will be involved?

Vivianne Miedema, Sam Mewis, Lucy Bronze and Sam Kerr
Vivianne Miedema, Sam Mewis, Lucy Bronze and Sam Kerr have all played in the WSL in the last year

There will be plenty of big names in Japan.

Team GB's Fran Kirby, named the WSL Player of the Year, and Lucy Bronze, the Fifa Best player in 2020, are both involved.

Canada, bronze medallists in 2012 and 2016, have named veteran Christine Sinclair, the all-time top scorer in international football, in their squad.

Arsenal's new signing Mana Iwabuchi will represent hosts Japan, while Brazil legends Marta and Formiga are also competing.

There are plenty of stars in the Netherlands squad, including forward Lieke Martens, who won the treble with Barcelona last season, and Arsenal striker Vivianne Miedema.

Chelsea's Sam Kerr will captain Australia while club team-mate Magda Eriksson is one of Sweden's key players.

The USA squad features Tobin Heath, Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan, Christen Press, Megan Rapinoe, Sam Mewis, Rose Lavelle and Abby Dahlkemper.