The Team GB midfielder Kim Little is not on Twitter. She did not know she was trending on Wednesday. She did not know clips of her nutmegs and silky play in the side’s opening game of the Olympics against Chile were doing the rounds on social media.
“I haven’t seen any of them – I can remember them,” the 31-year-old Arsenal midfielder said with a wry smile. “It’s nice to hear that people enjoyed my performance but mostly the team’s and I’m just happy that I’m able to bring my strengths to the squad and hope that it helps us win games.”
Little has been here before; not literally here, in Sapporo, but at the Olympics. She was one of two Scots in the squad for the London Olympics in 2012 alongside the Ifeoma Dieke.
Little has played for big clubs in some of the biggest leagues and is no stranger to this stage, but it does not feel like a business trip. “Part of what we do for a living is play football to get results, so there’s always that element of getting the job done,” she said before captaining Team GB in their second group game at the Sapporo Dome on Saturday against Japan. “Being able to express ourselves and do it for a living at an Olympics is the ultimate. As much as it is business to a certain extent, in that we’re here to win matches and to win the tournament, it’s very much an enjoyable one.”
Little and her fellow Scot in this incarnation of Team GB, Manchester City’s Caroline Weir, formed a formidable midfield with City’s Keira Walsh anchoring them. Little has played with a number of the squad with Arsenal and previously with Team GB, and Weir has Little and nine City teammates to help make the transition into a majority English team seamless.
“The way we play football makes it quite easy to connect with each other on the pitch and see each other’s runs and combine movements quite well,” said Little. “It’s been great to play with new players and some of the best in the world and we’re all thriving off that and hoping we can get better and better throughout the tournament.
“I don’t think I’ve played with someone as fast as Lauren [Hemp]. As a midfielder I’m quite central and I think as soon as she has space and is wide then my role is to get the ball to her one-on-one and then maybe to move away to give her space and not always go to her. We did that well [against Chile]. Those connections with Lauren and other players is what makes what we do so fun.”
Weir says that pre-existing connections have helped her settle. “I feel lucky that a lot of Man City teammates are here, [plus] Kim, and I’ve played with pretty much everyone else apart from maybe Fran [Kirby], Millie [Bright], Rach [Daly],” she said.
Team GB return to the enclosed Sapporo Dome – which Weir describes as “one of the coolest places I’ve ever played”, in part because she “loved it that it wasn’t hot” – to face a very different challenge from the one posed by Chile.
Japan will not have the benefit of a home crowd but Little said: “All footballers would say they’d much rather play with a crowd regardless of whether they are for you or against you, so of course that’s a big miss with this tournament.”
The team have reviewed games against Japan, whom Little and Weir faced at the 2019 World Cup. “It was a very tough game for us and we need to be as prepared as possible for that, especially with them being the home nation and having such great technical ability,” Little said.
“I like the challenge of playing again all different types of players, whether it’s physical attributes, speed or technical. Japan, probably more than most, have a general theme throughout, whereas our team is full of strengths in so many areas and I hope we can use that to help us be successful.”
Do this Team GB side feel they can go a long way? “I think so,” said Weir. “We’re trying not to think too far ahead. We know we have talent – it’s such a competitive squad. There’s going to be probably quite a bit of rotation just because we have the squad to do that and the games are going to come thick and fast.”