Canadian midfielder Julia Grosso loving life in Italy with Juventus

TURIN, ITALY - MARCH 23: Julia Grosso of Juventus in action against Selma Bacha of Olympique Lyon during the UEFA Women's Champions League Quarter Final First Leg match between Juventus and Olympique Lyon at Allianz Stadium on March 23, 2022 in Turin, Italy. (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)

Just 22, Julia Grosso has settled nicely in Italy.

Since signing with Juventus in December, the midfielder from Vancouver has added the Serie A, Coppa Italia and SuperCoppa titles to her Olympic gold medal with Canada.

"I feel like it's just been exciting times … It's always a lot going on but I love it,'' Grosso said of her recent soccer whirlwind. "It's been really good.''

Grosso and Juve turn their attention to Denmark's HB Koge on Tuesday in UEFA Women's Champions League play.

The second leg goes Sept. 28 at Juventus. The 12 second-qualifying-round series winners join defending champion Lyon and fellow direct entrants Barcelona, Chelsea and Wolfsburg in the group stage that starts in October.

Juventus reached the quarterfinals of the 2021-22 competition, losing 4-3 to Lyon in the two-legged quarterfinal in March.

Grosso started against the French powerhouse, helping Juve to a 2-1 home win in the opening leg which marked only Lyon's third loss in its previous 41 Champions League matches (35-3-3). The Canadian was among the substitutes for the second leg in France, won 3-1 by Lyon.

Juventus comes into Tuesday's game on the back of a 1-0 league win over visiting Roma on Friday with Grosso coming in off the bench in the 76th minute.

"Probably our biggest competitor in the league,'' Grosso said of Roma, which finished as the runner-up to Juventus last season.

Juve (2-0-1) currently sits fourth in the Women's Serie A with Fiorentina and Sampdoria sporting perfect 3-0-0 records atop the standings.

Football isn't the only thing Grosso is savouring these days. Italian food has also been a hit.

"When my parent came to visit they were like 'Oh my gosh, we can not live here because we're going to get fat,''' Grosso recalled with a giggle. "At our (training) facilities, we have healthy options but they always have pasta available and so I try so hard not to eat it every day, just like switch it up. But it's really hard not to eat it every day.''

Grosso was 13 when she made her debut in the Canadian youth program in 2014 with coach Bev Priestman, who is now in charge of the senior squad. She went on to represent Canada at the U-15, U-17 and U-20 level, including at the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup in 2016 in Jordan.

Grosso was 17 when she made her senior debut for Canada on Nov. 12, 2017, in a 3-1 loss to the U.S. in San Jose. She went to the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup in France but did not feature.

Today, Grosso has 43 caps for Canada (including 15 starts) with three goals and three assists, playing most recently in Canada's two victories in Australia. She started in the opening 2-1 win in Brisbane on Sept. 3, partnering with Jessie Fleming in a deeper midfield pairing in a new-look 4-2-3-1 formation deployed by Priestman.

"It's very fluid with me and her, We just know how we play,'' Grosso said of lining up alongside Fleming. "It was really good. I really like that formation.''

The trip Down Under gave the team a taste of what to expect at the Women's World Cup, which kicks off next July.

Prior to Juventus, Grosso was a standout in four years at the University of Texas in Austin.

"I really enjoyed it,'' she said of her time as a Longhorn. "Texas is a great school … That team and the coaching staff, it's a big family.''

She also gives Austin a thumbs-up as a "cool place.''

But Texas coach Angela Kelly, a former Canadian international, was the program's main attraction.

"For me, one of the most important things was a coach that would be understanding of me leaving with the national team,'' said Grosso.

Grosso found herself in the limelight after scoring the decisive penalty in Canada's shootout victory over Sweden in the Olympic gold-medal game on Aug. 6, 2021, in Yokohama. After the game finished knotted at 1-1 after extra time, Grosso slotted home her spot kick for a 3-2 shootout win after Stephanie Labbe saved Jonna Andersson's spot kick.

Swedish goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl got an arm to Grosso's low left-footed shot but couldn't stop it. Grosso, who had come into the game as a substitute, was soon at the bottom of a celebratory Canadian dogpile.

Grosso, who says her role in the penalty shootout often gets raised when she's back in Canada, recalls how she locked into her task as she walked towards the penalty spot.

"I was so nervous. But as soon as I started walking to the ball, it completely went away and I was just so focused,'' she said.

She had the Olympic rings tattooed on her forearm while in Italy. "Just kind of a spontaneous day,'' she said.

England's Manchester City and Everton, France's Paris Saint-Germain and Spain's Real Madrid also showed interest in the Grosso before she signed with Juventus.

"I've been a big fan of this club since I was little,'' said Grosso.

Everywhere the team bus goes, it draws a crowd and a reaction, she says.

"It's like people are either flipping us off or loving us. It's one or the other. But it shows everywhere we go in Italy, everyone knows football so much here … Everyone pays attention to Juventus. So it's really cool to be a part of that.''

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