Eniola Aluko believes England can still clinch Great Britain an Olympic place

By Sports Desk November 01, 2023

Eniola Aluko still believes England can secure qualification for Great Britain at the Paris 2024 Olympics.

The Lionesses – who need to finish top of Nations League Group A1 to have a chance at claiming GB an Olympic spot – slipped to third after losing 3-2 in Belgium on Tuesday.

Sarina Wiegman’s side, with six points from four games, are three behind leaders the Netherlands and one behind second-placed Belgium.

Their final two group fixtures see them play the Dutch at Wembley on December 1 and then Scotland at Hampden Park four days later.

Former England and Team GB forward Aluko said: “It is a tough group with the Netherlands, Belgium and Scotland. It is not an easy group at all. I think the Nations League is deliberately competitive.

“Really, England have got to win the last two games to have any chance of qualifying, but if any team is going to prove anyone wrong it’s the Lionesses, and they have done so well in the last two years.”

Aluko is not doubtful that England – who were World Cup runners-up over the summer, a year on from winning the Euros – could pull through because they “have everything to win those last two games”.

She added: “I think sometimes there can be a bit of a hangover from the World Cup where you have a massive high and then come back to normality.

“Sometimes it takes players a little bit to get going again. The season only just started again and we are only five games into the Women’s Super League.

“Fatigue is not just physical – it is mental as well. There are so many games and so many tournaments.

“Frankly, the women’s game is really competitive. On any given day, Scotland can beat England and Holland can beat England – that is the sort of level of competition we are dealing with.”

Aluko was speaking after she collected an MBE for her services to association football and to charity on Wednesday.

The Prince of Wales, who presented Aluko with her MBE at a ceremony at Windsor Castle, told her “this feels like this is overdue”, and she later said of that moment: “It was lovely and a really, really nice thing to say.”

Broadcaster and football executive Aluko’s playing career included featuring at three World Cups, three European Championships and the London 2012 Olympics.

She began her career at Birmingham and had subsequent spells at Charlton, Chelsea and in the United States before returning to Birmingham in 2012.

Aluko rejoined Chelsea from 2012 to 2018, during which time she won two WSL titles, the WSL Spring Series and two FA Cups.

After announcing her retirement from playing in January 2020 following a spell with Juventus, Aluko had stints as sporting director at Aston Villa and Los Angeles-based Angel City FC.

The 36-year-old has also worked heavily with charities and organisations such as Charity Water, Common Goal and Unesco.

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