Team GB has got talent. They knew it when they performed a variety show for kicks in the team hotel and they know it now after they opened their Olympic Games campaign with a comprehensive victory over Chile.
Debuts are never easy. A training camp held in a Covid environment is not the norm and neither is a match before no fans in a stifling Sapporo dome.
As captain Steph Houghton joked, smuggling a coffee into the camp has been an achievement on this most challenging of trips.
Team GB striker Ellen White celebrates scoring her and the side’s second goal against Chile
White finished off Lucy Bronze’s cross with an acrobatic volley with 17 minutes remaining
Team GB players join White to celebrate their second goal of the match in Sapporo, Japan
Manchester City forward White (right) tapped home from close range to break the deadlock
White is surrounded by her Team GB team-mates after opening the scoring inside 20 minutes
White found back of the net following Lauren Hemp’s (not pictured) knock-down at back post
White celebrates with Team GB team-mate and substitute Leah Williamson on Wednesday
To underline the point, on a press call to preview this match, manager Hege Riise was unceremoniously moved out of a cafe by a member of staff while speaking to journalists.
But Riise, who herself won a gold medal with her native Norway in 2000, has high hopes for this group. And while they could have been more composed, more clinical, this was nothing other than a successful start.
A brace of smart finishes from the lethal Ellen White, one in either half, did the trick. In reality, a dominant performance should have resulted in a wider margin.
‘I feel really delighted with where I’m at but there’s still more to come from all of us,’ White said.
‘We’ve worked tremendously hard to get to this moment. It doesn’t stop here.’
Team GB’s Georgia Stanway fires a shot towards goal during the first half of the encounter
Caroline Weir (No 11) dribbles with the ball in Group E opener against Chile in Sapporo
Team GB women’s football team were the first British athletes to compete at Tokyo Olympics
GB 4-3-3: Roebuck; Bronze, Houghton (c), Bright, Daly; Little (Toone 90+2), Weir (Scott 90), Walsh (Ingle 69); Hemp (Parris 68), White, Stanway.
Subs not used: Stokes, Telford, Williamson.
Chile 4-4-2: Endler, Opazo, Pardo, Guerrero, Saez, Zamora, Lopez, Araya, Lara, Urrutia, Aedo.
Subs not used: Campos, Ramirez, Acuna, Balmaceda, Toro, Grez, Mardones
There was harmony from the start. Speculation had mounted over whether the non-English members of the team would sing the National Anthem ahead of the fixture, but each player gave a rousing rendition.
As expected, Team GB took the knee ahead of kick-off, and were quickly joined by their South American counterparts. The group announced their intention to do so last week, following the relaxation of Olympic rules around making symbolic gestures.
Riise had wanted her side to start on the front foot and they obliged, aggressively pressing and finding space for their speedsters out wide. On 10 minutes, they had the ball in the Chilean net but White was correctly adjudged offside when she tapped in from close range after Georgia Stanway’s effort was parried.
After 16 minutes, an inevitable first arrived. Lucy Bronze whipped in a dangerous cross, Lauren Hemp dominated her marker at the far post to guide it across the face of goal and Manchester City’s White fired home on the turn from close range.
This time there was no flag. The campaign was up and running. With Kim Little controlling midfield and the pacy Hemp causing issues on the left, winning five free-kicks, there was an element of assured control to the performance.
Team GB’s Rachel Daly (left) is challenged by Chile’s Daniela Zamora (right) in opening period
On 57 minutes Team GB may well have had a penalty when White was clipped from behind but the striker was ruled offside following a VAR check
For all the dominance, however, chances were difficult to come by with a composed final ball as elusive as a decent decision from referee Salina Mukansanga, who offered Team GB little protection.
A similar pattern emerged following the break, with Team GB enjoying the vast majority of possession but unable to find an opening.
On 57 minutes they may well have had a penalty when White was clipped from behind while trying to score from a second rebound when Georgia Stanway’s long-range drive was palmed away.
However, following a VAR check the striker was harshly given offside and the resulting corner turned into a Chilean free-kick.
Team GB were captained by Manchester City star Steph Houghton in their opening clash
Frustration mounted. This was a game Team GB were expected to win against a team 31 places below England in the rankings. But two moments of brilliance put it to bed.
First, Bronze feigned to shoot and glided past a defender who may still be looking for her. She then dinked a cross over to White who, again on the half turn, managed to volley a clinical finish into the turf and beyond Christiane Endler, widely regarded as one of the best goalkeepers in the game.
A fine goal that deserved to be witnessed by more than an empty stadium. There are bigger challenges ahead. Much bigger challenges. But Riise’s side return to their Covid-safe environment on Wednesday night, the points safe and secure.
‘I asked for a good start and we made a great start,’ said Riise, whose side face hosts Japan on Saturday. ‘We will work on our ruthlessness in the box to try to score more goals.’