- Steph Labbe finally getting her chance as Canada No1
- The 32-year-old is at her third Women's World Cup
- THE LATEST: #SWECAN Live Blog updating now
By Mona Yeganegi with Canada
A veteran FIFA Women's World Cup™ goalkeeper and one of Canada’s lead players, Stephanie Labbe is back for her third World Cup, but this time as part of the starting line-up. Restricted to a role as back-up for both Germany 2011 and the 2015 finals on home soil, Labbe has had to bide her time. In a bitter-sweet turn of events, injury to Erin McLeod gave her the chance to be a World Cup No1. In any case, her Women's World Cup debut was long overdue.
“It was an incredible moment," Labbe told FIFA, on her global finals bow against Cameroon. "It was something I've been looking forward to for over ten years. I've been working really really hard behind the scenes and doing my job putting in the work. I was a little nervous going in but game time, I felt super relaxed and confident and ready to do my job.”
The North Carolina Courage stopper kept a lengthy clean sheet streak throughout the year which came to an end in Canada’s most recent match against a very aggressive Dutch attacking line.
“It's never great letting in goals but at the same time I'm a pretty present-minded person," Labbe said. "So the second it went in I was already forgetting about it and ready for the next thing. But looking back, in a sense I think it's a good thing for us to get broken down. It's a chance for us to learn and grow and to make sure that we tidy those little things up for beyond the group stage, where we can't afford those errors.”
Despite her focus on clean sheets, Labbe - as a truly modern goalkeeper - wants to be an attacking outlet too.
“I want to bring something where I'm going to help us create goal-scoring opportunities," Labbe said. "Whether that's me just being able to play short passes to take out their front players or lead from the back and communicate in making sure that we're all organized so that when we're attacking, they don't have a chance to counter-attack us.”
Labbe will make her 65th appearance for Canada as they face Sweden on Monday, a team that - like the Netherlands - is an intense attacking force.
"The teams are getting harder and harder as you go. But for us, we continue to keep a sharp eye," Labbe smiled.
The 32-year-old has previously played for several Swedish clubs with a successful career in the country, meaning she has some familiarity with their style of play.
“Sweden is definitely a physical team," Labbe said. "At the same time, Sweden has some big threats in the midfield and they've got some goalscorers up top. Defensively, we're going to have to use our grit and our physical game and offensively, we can impose ourselves on the game. It doesn't matter who we're playing against. We're going to stick to what we know and what we can do and break them down in that sense.”
Having waited so long for a World Cup chance, the all-action 'keeper will surely savour every moment of her nation's first knockout clash in France.
Fans interested in attending the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019 can still purchase tickets for the tournament via www.fifa.com/tickets, as well as via ticket booths located at stadia for remaining matches still available to the general public.