Olympic Footballers to Watch: Group E

Women's Olympic Football Tournament – Group E

The group stage of the women’s football tournament at the 2020 Summer Olympics consists of three groups, labeled as E, F and G. Each group contains four teams that will play against each other in a round-robin format.

The four teams of Group E are Canada, Chile, Great Britain and Japan. Here are the players from each team that we think will make an impact during the Summer Games.

Canada: Évelyne Viens

When Beverly Priestman announced her Olympic squad, many were surprised to see Jordyn Huitema listed as an alternate. Those following the French league were less shocked for two reasons. First: Huitema was struggling for good and consistent minutes in a stacked Paris Saint-Germain team. Second: another Parisian side boasted a young Canadian striker playing with confidence.

Évelyne Viens had a dazzling college career with the South Florida Bulls. In her first year, she tied the school record for goals in a season. By graduation, she had become South Florida’s all-time record goalscorer with 73 goals. An impressive college career does not guarantee an impressive professional career. In Viens’ case though, her record breaking performances were telling of things to come.

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In the 2020 NWSL College Draft, Gotham FC selected Viens as the 5th overall pick. She was then later loaned out to D1 Arkema outfit Paris FC. There, she caught attention for scoring eleven goals in fourteen games.

Blistering form was rewarded with a chance on the international stage. Viens did not waste this opportunity to impress. Within three minutes, the exciting striker found the back of the net against a team ranked two places above her own. Capitalising off of Demi Stoke’s defensive error, Viens’ grappled for the ball and confidently nestled it past Carly Telford. Now, Canadian fans will be hoping for a repeat performance as Team GB and Canada both feature in Group E.

Though Viens only has a handful of caps, she has more than enough talent to justify her selection. It remains to be seen whether she will be trusted to start or if she becomes a crucial, off-the-bench game changer. Regardless, she is a dynamic player who you would put good money on clinching an important goal when her team needs it most.

Megan Scott

Chile: Christiane Endler

Chile kicks off their tournament against the 2011 World Cup winners Japan. One player who will be instrumental in Chile’s potential success at the Olympics is goalkeeper Christiane Endler.

Endler recently joined French giants Olympique Lyonnais after four years at Paris Saint-Germain, where she won the Division 1 Féminine and Coupe de France Féminine. Last season, Endler made 28 appearances and kept 21 clean sheets in 2,520 minutes played.

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A player known for the big occasions, Endler made it to the UEFA Women’s Champions League semi-final and ranked 22nd in The Guardian‘s top 100 women’s footballers of 2020. She was the highest-ranked goalkeeper on the list.

Endler has received praise from notable figures in the women’s game such as Chelsea’s head coach Emma Hayes, former USMNT defender Alexi Lalas and former USWNT World Cup champion Hope Solo.

James Lewis

Great Britain: Steph Houghton

The Tokyo Olympics will see Steph Houghton co-captaining Team GB into what will be her second games. The Manchester City skipper was just 24 when London hosted the games. Nine years on, Houghton will be one of only four players to play in both tournaments.

Since then, Houghton has made the move from Arsenal to the blue side of Manchester and became one of the most recognisable faces of women’s football on the international stage. With her experience as captain for both club and country, Houghton will provide experience and leadership alongside her fellow captains Sophie Ingle and Kim Little.

There were some doubts as to whether the defender would make the trip to Tokyo. Houghton missed the later stages of last season with an Achilles injury. Yet, the 33-year-old is now fit to lead her teammates out as they begin their campaign in Group E against Chile on Wednesday.

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With almost half of Team GB’s squad made up of Manchester City players, Houghton’s presence will be familiar to her club teammates competing. Her signature free kicks could also see the defender become a pivotal goalscoring option for the squad.

The pairing between Houghton and her fellow centre back will also undoubtedly help set the rhythm for the attacking players. Her long diagonal balls frequently launched Manchester City into attack, bypassing the opposition’s midfielders. When playing against opponents like the USA, these switches in play could help Team GB claim vital points.

With her club having conceded just 13 goals in the league last season, second only to Chelsea, Houghton’s defensive talent can not go unnoticed. Goal line clearances and quick tackles are all frequent parts of the centre back’s game. Whether in a leadership or playing sense, Houghton could prove to be pivotal in Team GB’s quest for Olympic silverware this summer.

Bethany Fisher

Japan: Saori Takarada

Amongst Japan’s relatively young squad is Saori Takarada, a growing talent of the youth national team. The 21-year-old only has seven senior caps, but had a hugely successful run at the 2018 U-20 Women’s World Cup. She scored five goals across all six games, earning the Silver Ball and Bronze Boot for her efforts, not to mention netting the final-winning goal against Spain. She was also bestowed the Asian Young Footballer of the Year award in the same year.

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After appearing for Japan in the 2019 World Cup as a substitute, Takarada is now deservedly getting to stretch her legs as a fully-fledged senior squad member. It was playing alongside the USA in 2019 that inspired her to play abroad, signing for the Washington Spirit of the NWSL ahead of the new season. Now she returns to Japan to represent Nadeshiko as hosts of the tournament, which no doubt comes with its own challenges and excitement for the first time Olympian.

Megan Wilson

Be sure to check out our other Olympic footballers to watch from Group F and Group G.