England Women players braced for penultimate Team GB audition as Hege Riise considers options

The battle for places in Great Britain’s 18-player women’s football squad for this summer’s Olympic games will intensify as England take on France on Friday.

The friendly in Caen, Normandy, is England’s penultimate fixture before interim head coach Hege Riise names her Team GB squad next month, and competition for places is widespread with 26 players in the current Lionesses squad alone, as well as several contenders from the other home nations.

England are playing on foreign soil for the first time in more than a year and the fixture is Riise’s second in charge, following February’s 6-0 rout of Northern Ireland. The 1995 World Cup winner said: “It is a long time since we had good competition. Northern Ireland was a good start, now in the next two games we play stronger opponents and that will [show us] our character.”

The Lionesses will be without captain Steph Houghton through injury (Achilles) and Norway great Riise has already decided who her stand-in captain will be against France and against Canada on Tuesday, but has not revealed her selection.

France are ranked third in the world and Canada are eighth, with England sixth. Manchester City and England striker Ellen White said: “The opposition we’re facing are pretty much tier-one opposition, they’re fantastic teams. I’m always so privileged to be able to travel to play France who are a phenomenal team.

“The focus is to be in contention to go to the Olympics, which is incredible, so everyone’s doing everything they can both for their clubs and here [in the camp] and it’s really competitive.”

Asked whether she will select her strongest XI or experiment in Caen, Riise added: “Both. I feel like we have strong players coming off the bench as well. We have a good squad in France. I will see more of the players during the game.

“Good results always bring confidence but we want to see what we see in training — quick-turn counter-attacking style and defending with great heart.

“Players know the competition [for the Olympics] but I still want them to be relaxed and play their best, as a starter or if they are coming on to change the game. I want them to be relaxed, have fun — this is what we all love. Get on the field and play.”

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