Maple Ridge soccer icon Karina LeBlanc will have her impressive legacy grow even more, as the 35-year-old keeper was named to the national team for the upcoming World Cup.
The colourful LeBlanc was front and centre at Monday’s ceremony when the 23-player roster was announced in Vancouver’s Robson Square, as she took the microphone and challenged Canadian soccer fans to be the best 12th man in this country.
“The truth is, there will be a moment in this World Cup where you will make the difference,” LeBlanc said. “You will be the difference so that we can win the World Cup in this country.”
The veteran goalkeeper is the longest serving player in Canadian women’s soccer, having made her debut in 1998, and has 110 national team appearances and 101 starts in goal. She has played in four World Cups, three Pan American Games and two Olympics. LeBlanc was part of the Canadian women’s team that won bronze at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
Canada will field a veteran team, led by captain Christine Sinclair of Burnaby. Sinclair has 222 caps (national team games) and 153 goals internationally.
“Today marks the culmination of three years of dedicated work from the team and we are pleased with the final selection,” said head coach John Herdman. “After the Olympics, we challenged the players to shed an old skin and strive to be even better as a team, and as individuals. They all committed wholeheartedly to this vision and competition for each position was fierce. Ultimately, we feel that this group of 23 makes us the best team we can be across our four corners of the game. They fully deserve this honour.”
Canada is ranked eighth in the world by FIFA, and will kick off the month-long World Cup on June 6 in Edmonton with a game against sixteenth-ranked China. The team will stay in the Alberta capital for their second match against New Zealand, ranked 17th, four days later. They will then take on 12th-ranked Netherlands on June 15 in Montreal. Other cities hosting World Cup games include Ottawa, Moncton, Winnipeg and Vancouver.
LeBlanc plays for the Chicago Red Stars of the National Women’s Soccer League, and had six shutouts in 21 starts last season.