Kelly Smith feels Hege Riise has a “good blend” in her Great Britain squad for the Tokyo Olympics but is surprised Jordan Nobbs was not selected.
Riise’s 18-strong group announced last week includes the experience of five players who were in the London 2012 GB squad alongside Smith.
Her former England and Arsenal team-mate Nobbs – who missed the 2019 World Cup with injury – was among the notable omissions, not making the 18 or the four-player standby list.
Smith told the PA news agency: “I think it’s a good, strong, solid squad with experience and youth, a good mixture.
“Thirteen new Olympians and five that are returning, so you have got that experience there. I think she has got a good blend.
“I think she had a very, very tough job because there are so many top quality players now for Hege Riise to pick. You’re always going to have some heartbreak of players that aren’t going to be selected.
“The big surprise for me was Jordan Nobbs. I’ve played with her for Arsenal and England and I know how talented she is.
“This is another big occasion that she hasn’t made the cut. I think she has had a very good season, but it’s the manager’s choice. She has picked two holding midfielders over picking Jordan, so for me she has gone a little bit conservative in that position.
“Just from playing with her (Nobbs) and knowing her energy and enthusiasm, work-rate and hunger and desire, she’d always be in my starting XI, that’s how crucial she is. I really feel for her, because for me, she would have been one of the first names on the team-sheet.”
The five set to head to a second Olympics are England’s Steph Houghton, Jill Scott, Ellen White and Karen Bardsley and Scotland’s Kim Little.
The total of 15 Lionesses players in the squad named by England interim boss Riise also features the likes of Lucy Bronze and Fran Kirby, while Little is joined by fellow Scot Caroline Weir and Wales captain Sophie Ingle has been included as well.
Asked to compare the squad with the one that reached the 2012 quarter-finals under Hope Powell, Smith said: “I think it’s a lot better in terms of strength and depth, quality of players. They’re just I think a more technical bunch.
“I think the game has evolved since 2012, the players are a little bit more technical, have a better game understanding. I think that’s due to the professionalism within the game, and the quality of coaching they are getting on a day in, day out basis. They are training full-time. Back in 2012 that wasn’t happening.”
The 42-year-old former striker, who scored 125 goals for Arsenal and a record 46 for England before retiring in 2017, added: “I certainly think they’ve got a really good opportunity to get to the final. I really do believe the players are that good.”
Smith says the players in 2012 “kept pinching ourselves because we didn’t believe we’d ever get to play in an Olympics, because GB never had a side”, and believes it is “crucial that we have women’s football in the Olympics, another big, major tournament to showcase women’s football”.
:: Smith is taking part in the #SignYourSupport campaign which sees a giant England flag touring the country. Fans can sign online to benefit a Nationwide Mutual Respect Grassroots Football Fund. For every signature up to the first 50,000 fans, Nationwide Building Society, the FA Respect campaign sponsor, will put in an additional £1. Fans can sign their support at: nationwide-signyoursupport.co.uk
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