- Karina LeBlanc was part of Canada’s squad that hosted 2015 Women’s World Cup
- FIFA Legend says home side must deal with inevitable pressure
- Hopes friend Christine Sinclair breaks all-time scoring record in France
June 6 2015: The opening game of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup™, and over 53,000 people packed into Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium to watch Canada in its opening match as hosts
FIFA Legends squad member, Karina LeBlanc, was part of the Canada squad that reached the quarter-final of their home World Cup, and that opening game against China PR is one that she recalls vividly having endued a long build-up.
“I think when you have a home World Cup the biggest thing people have to factor in is the importance of the fans and showing up for your country,” the former goalkeeper said, speaking on the final leg of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Trophy Tour in Toronto.
“We had a World Cup here and it blew us away every time we drove to a game and saw a sea of red, and seeing men and women wearing our jerseys, it wasn’t just the girls.
“I remember being excited because you wait your whole life for this moment and it’s finally there. I remember the stadium being packed. You prepare for what it will be like, but you remember the world is watching and that you’re doing what you love. It’s just special.”
France will have those same emotions when they open the tournament in just over a month’s time in Paris against Korea Republic. Coach Corinne Diacre has already named her 23 player squad, which has a mix of experience and younth.
The last team to win a Women’s World Cup while hosting was USA’s storied 1999 side, who not only became world champions, but changed the women’s game as we know it.
They dealt with big crowds, high expectations and huge amounts of pressure, something the French will have to do as hosts, says LeBlanc.
“The pressures of hosting a World Cup isn’t really spoken about, but the last team to win a World Cup that was hosting was back in 99 in the U.S.
“But this is a pressure that I think the French will do well with – what an important moment it would be for the women to win straight after their men. But nobody expects that pressure and it’s about those players challenging themselves to be that gamechanger, and there is no bigger stage to do that.”
LeBlanc, now Head of Women’s Football at Concacaf, admitted that if her Canada team were to win the World Cup, she would want to “pull on a jersey and lift the trophy with them,” but having been retired now for almost four years, she will attend this World Cup in a different capacity as a TV pundit.
This will allow her to potentially witness her friend and former team-mate, Christine Sinclair, break the all-time international goal scoring record, which is currently held by Abby Wambach (184 goals).
Sinclair currently sits on 180, and LeBlanc was quick to praise Canada’s greatest ever player, and hoped that despite her modest and humble personality, that she breaks the record on the biggest stage.
“The thing about Christine is she is probably the most humble person you will ever meet. But what she’s done in our country goes far beyond the game of football. Canadians love her because of how humble she is. Many Canadians who have achieved what she has would be happy to tell their story, but if she were here now in this room, she’d be hiding in the corner chilling with her coffee.
“I hope she breaks this record at this World Cup because it will hopefully gain her the global recognition she’s deserved. She’s been one of the best players in the world for the longest time, and because of who she is, she’s stayed under the radar.
“She won’t want to break the record at the World Cup because she’ll want it to be about the whole team, but as a former team-mate of hers and a good friend, I hope she does so the world can see and finally know what this woman is about.”