LONDON, Dec 20 (Reuters) - FA Women’s Super League champions Arsenal may have a title defence to worry about as well as a Champions League quarter-final clash in the New Year, but captain Kim Little is looking beyond both to a potential place in the Team GB Olympic squad.
The Scotland midfielder, who was selected in the women’s team that reached the quarter-finals of the 2012 London Games, was a key part of Arsenal’s first title win in seven years last season, notching eight goals and six assists.
But it is Olympic glory that is on her mind going into the New Year, as the four home nations (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) agreed to allow a united women’s team to play in the 2020 Tokyo Games.
“I think for anyone who can be involved or potentially selected it’s something we’ve thought about, naturally,” Little, 29, told Reuters at Visa Europe’s headquarters in London.
“It’s such a momentous occasion to play in or be a part of an Olympics, especially having been part of one in 2012. It’s something I think about and I’m conscious of.
“But I know to get there I need to work extremely hard and push myself as much as I can to be playing at the best level to be given a chance.”
Team GB’s place at the Games was secured when England finished as one of the top three European teams at the World Cup, reaching the semi-finals. Lionesses manager Phil Neville will take charge of the British squad.
Before that, though, the pressure is on Little and her Arsenal team mates to maintain their form on two fronts. The champions lead the league at the winter break on 27 points, three ahead of Manchester City and four in front of Chelsea.
It is an intense battle between the three teams, while Arsenal also have the challenge of being the sole English representative in the Champions League, coming up against Paris St Germain in the quarter-finals in March-April.
The Londoners were the first British team to win the UEFA Women’s Cup, the precursor to the Champions League, but no British side has won the competition in its current format.
The champions are Olympique Lyonnais who have won the trophy a record six times, with German sides Vfl Wolfsburg, twice, and Turbine Potsdam also triumphing since the rebrand in 2009-10. Little said it was time English sides closed the gap.
“I think that should be an aim for all English clubs that are in the Champions League. Obviously this year it’s us. We’ve made it to the quarter-finals and I can’t wait to be a part of that,” she said.
“But, yes, I think that’s the next step for English teams to close that gap towards teams like Lyon and Wolfsburg and obviously the Spanish teams and other French teams... make the semi-finals or final and win it on a consistent basis and that’s what our aim is.”
What pains Little is that she could not inspire Scotland at this year’s Women’s World Cup in France, as the debutants failed to win a match and finished bottom of their group.
They showed flashes of quality in defeats by England and Japan, but succumbed to a last-minute penalty against Argentina to draw 3-3 in their final match and missed out on progressing as a best third-place finisher.
“In terms of performances it was extremely disappointing and I think we didn’t reach our potential,” Little said.
“I think with the team we had we should have gone further but we’ll learn from that and we can always do better but... it was a such great thing to be a part of and such a big thing for us, the national team, playing in our first World Cup.
“To show women and young girls in Scotland... seeing that and knowing that they have every opportunity to be a footballer. Just go into anything to achieve and be the best they can.” (Reporting by Christian Radnedge; editing by Ken Ferris)