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Who is Hege Riise? England appoint Lionesses interim coach

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Hege Riise has joined the England coaching staff on a short-term contract and will lead the Lionesses as interim manager at training camp scheduled for next month after Phil Neville’s early departure on Monday.

Riise had already applied for a position in the coaching setup when the assistant manager position was vacated in November by Rehanne Skinner, who left to take over at Tottenham. Former Canada international Rhian Wilkinson also joined the staff after applying for the same position.

The FA have previously identified and appointed Sarina Wiegman as the permanent successor to Neville, who has now been officially appointed by MLS club Inter Miami, but she will not take office until the fall, when her current contract as coach of the Netherlands will expire.

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Sarina Wiegman will not take over until fall 2021 | Soccrates Images / Getty Images

It’s unclear how long Riise will be in charge and if she will be tasked with leading Britain at the delayed Tokyo Olympics in the summer. The FA is in charge of overseeing the GB team and will re-assess the situation once February’s training camp in England is over.

2003 FIFA Women's World Cup USA - Norway vs USA - October 1, 2003
Riise was one of the best players in the world | Al Messerschmidt / Getty Images

Already a legend in women’s football in her playing career, Riise has grown to become an esteemed coach over the past decade.

The 51-year-old has been nominated for the 2020 FIFA Best Female Coach award alongside other big names like Emma Hayes, Jean-Luc Vasseur and future winner Wiegman, who also won in 2017 and was finalist in 2018 and 2019 – a good omen for England.

Riise’s appointment came after a sixth consecutive league title with Norwegian club LSK Kvinner. Five of those seasons also saw a national cup, as they consistently competed with richer teams in the Champions League and reached the quarter-finals in 2018/19.

Prior to her role at LSK, Riise was a coach in the USWNT setup.

As a player, Riise was among the best in the world throughout the 1990s and early 2000s in a very strong Norwegian team that won all the major international tournaments.

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Riise won the Women’s World Cup with Norway in 1995 | – / Getty Images

Norway won the 1993 European Championship and were the last country other than Germany to lift the trophy until Wiegman guided the Netherlands to glory 24 years later.

Riise gained worldwide fame in women’s football when she was named the best player at the 1995 World Cup when Norway were crowned champions. She scored five goals in the tournament, including the first in the final against Germany, and has been known to bring technical quality and vision to a team otherwise known for their physicality.

Riise and Norway won a bronze medal at the 1996 Olympics, before taking a gold at the 2000 tournament, beating the defending champions USA in the final. She then went on to play club football in the United States, home to many of the best players in the world.

In her own words, Riise is a coach who wants to feel that she is making a difference for each player under her tutelage and to build close personal bonds through calm interactions.

“As a coach, my style is more to listen than to speak,” she told FIFA.com last year.

“I try to involve my players in the decisions, to give them confidence and also, I hope, a little calm to do their job. When I think back to the coaches who got the most out of me, I think my approach is quite similar. I like to have a close relationship with my players and to be open to chatting – not just about training and football, but everything.

“I feel like it’s my responsibility to bring something to every player I work with and develop them in one way or another. To me, that’s what a coach is. I have never had a problem with a player who does not have the attributes I had as a player. Bringing out the best in players, whatever their skills, is a challenge that I really enjoy.

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