Great Britain present a very real danger to USA hopes of Olympic soccer gold

With the women's soccer in Tokyo about to kick off, Planet Sport casts an eye over the leading contenders to bring home gold this summer.

Considered the second largest international tournament behind the World Cup, women's soccer at the Olympics is held in high regard.

With that in mind, we're in for a treat this summer as 12 nations go head to head for gold, kicking off on July 21.

While the men's event is age-restricted, the women's squads face no such barriers, meaning all the world's superstars are on show.

The event has taken place since 1996 and has been dominated by USA, who have won gold four times in six attempts.

However, they were knocked off their pedestal at the 2016 Olympics, losing to Sweden in the quarter-finals to leave them without a medal for the first time.

The eventual gold medal winners, Germany, failed to qualify for this summer's event, leaving the door wide open for another nation to claim the title.

With the in mind, Planet Sport runs through the five leading contenders to take home gold from Tokyo this summer.

USA

As four-time gold medallists, it's no surprise the United States are favourites to reclaim their title and banish the disappointment of 2016.

After winning the 2020 and 2021 edition of the SheBelieves Cup, US head coach Vlatko Andonovski will be keen to add a gold medal to his trophy cabinet this summer.

The Macedonian-born coach certainly hasn't pulled any punches in his squad selection, and will have the likes of Tobin HeathAlex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe at his disposal.

The first task for the US team is to avoid another upset in their opening match against 2016 heartbreakers Sweden before also facing Australia and New Zealand to round off their group.

Squad

Goalkeepers: Alyssa Naeher, Adrianna Franch, Jane Campbell

Defenders: Crystal Dunn, Becky Sauerbrunn (captain), Kelley O'Hara, Tierna Davidson, Emily Sonnett, Abby Dahlkemper, Casey Krueger

Midfielders: Sam Mewis, Kristie Mewis, Julie Ertz, Lindsey Horan, Rose Lavelle, Catarina Macario

Forwards: Tobin Heath, Carli Lloyd, Christen Press, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Lynn Williams

Great Britain

Great Britain have never won a medal in women's soccer, but their rapid improvement on the international stage has seen them priced up as third favourites this summer.

Head coach Hege Riise named her 22-player squad on May 27, which includes 19 players from England, two from Scotland and Wales' Sophie Ingle.

A strong core of players from England's 2019 World Cup success have remained pivotal parts of the side, including the Manchester City trio of Lucy Bronze, Steph Houghton and Ellen White.

After a quarter-final exit in 2012 and then failure to qualify in 2016, Team GB will be hoping for at least a medal in this summer's event.

But first they face a difficult group including Chile, Canada and Japan.

Squad

Goalkeepers: Ellie Roebuck, Carly Telford, Sandy MacIver

Defenders: Lucy Bronze, Demi Stokes, Steph Houghton, Rachel Daly, Millie Bright, Leah Williamson, Lotte Wubben-Moy

Midfielders: Keira Walsh, Sophie Ingle, Kim Little, Caroline Weir, Georgia Stanway, Jill Scott

Forwards: Nikita Parris, Ellen White, Fran Kirby, Lauren Hemp, Niamh Charles, Ella Toone

Netherlands

Tokyo 2020 will be the first time the Netherlands women national team has qualified for the Olympics.

But, as runners-up at the 2019 World Cup, and winners of the 2017 European Women's Championship, they debut as one of the favourites.

Head coach Sarina Wiegman will want to finish with a medal in what will be her final tournament in charge, before her planned switch to the England national team in September 2021.

The Netherlands roster boasts an abundance of talent including Barcelona's Lieke Martens, who is fresh from winning the treble at club level, as well as Vivianne Miedema, who became the Women's Super League all-time top scorer in October.

Drawn against Zambia, China and Brazil, Netherlands should have a fairly simple run to the knockout stages.

Squad

Goalkeepers: Sari van Veenendaal, Lize Kop, Loes Geurts,

Defenders: Lynn Wilms, Stefanie van der Gragt, Aniek Nouwen, Merel van Dongen, Sisca Folkertsma, Kika van Es, Dominique Janssen, Anouk Dekker

Midfielders: Jill Roord, Sherida Spitse, Danielle van de Donk, Victoria Pelova, Jackie Groenen, Inessa Kaagman

Forwards: Shanice van de Sanden, Vivianne Miedema, Lieke Martens, Lineth Beerensteyn, Renate Jansen

Brazil

Despite never winning gold, Brazil continue to be a major force in women's soccer, qualifying for all the previous Olympics and taking home silver in 2004 and 2008.

Their 2016 campaign saw them narrowly miss out on a medal after losing 2-1 to Canada in the third-place play-off.

Now with a star-studded squad, the SheBelieves Cup runners-up could spring a surprise this summer.

Brazil are coached by Pia Sundhage, who was in charge of Sweden for their underdog win over US in 2016.

The Swedish coach is backed by an incredibly experienced squad - midfielder Formiga celebrated her 43rd birthday in March and currently holds the record for the most appearances in women's Olympic soccer games (29).

Additionally, Brazil's captain, Marta is widely regarded as one of the best soccer players of all time, having been named FIFA World Player of the Year six times, most recently in 2018.

Clearly a force to be reckoned with, Brazil get their tournament underway against China.

Squad

Goalkeepers: Barbara, Leticia, Aline Reis

Defenders: Poliana, Erika, Rafaelle, Tamires, Bruna Benites, Jucinara, Leticia Santos

Midfielders: Julia, Duda, Formiga, Angelina, Marta (captain), Geyse, Andressinha

Forwards: Debinha, Ludmila, Beatriz, Giovana, Andressa

Japan

Japan's sole medal in Olympic soccer came in 2012, when they lost 2-1 in the final against the USA to take home silver.

After winning the 2011 World Cup, Japan have popped up with the occasional silverware, including winning gold at the 2018 Asian Games.

The hosts enter the competition on a five-game winning streak and are unbeaten in 2021.

Drawn into a group with Great Britain, Canada and Chile, Japan don't face an easy path to the knockout stages and will have to prove their mettle early.

Their first task on July 21 is against 2016 bronze medallists Canada, which certainly looks to be the pick of the early matches.

Squad

Goalkeepers: Sakiko Ikeda, Ayaka Yamashita, Chika Hirao

Defenders: Risa Shimizu, Saori Takarada, Saki Kumagai (captain), Moeka Minami, Asato Miyagawa, Nanami Kitamura, Shiori Miyake

Midfielders: Hina Sugita, Emi Nakajima, Narumi Miura, Jun Endo, Yuzuho Shiokoshi, Yui Hasegawa, Honoka Hayashi, Momoka Kinoshita

Forwards: Yuika Sugasawa, Mana Iwabuchi, Mina Tanaka, Yuka Momiki