Canada’s Belanger fulfilling World Cup dream


Josee Belanger, No. 9, in action for Canada. (Petros Karadjias/AP)

After her career looked to be over due to injury, Canadian forward Josee Belanger has bounced back and is finally getting her chance to play at the FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Belanger, a native of Coaticook, Que., was well on her way to making her tournament debut at the 2011 World Cup until an ankle injury sidelined the forward indefinitely. It was a devastating blow not only to her, but the Canadian offence, which sputtered and the team finished in last place at the 16-nation tournament in Germany.

Belanger’s absence was glaring, as she was scoring at a steady pace prior to being hurt. This all culminated with a period of soul-searching for the Quebec-native during her injury layoff.

“It was a hard time for me to heal both physically and mentally,” Belanger, 29, told Sportsnet about her injury.

“I took time off. I had a job with kids in soccer, but I knew I needed to try again because it was my dream. I didn’t want to stop that journey because of what happened in the past. I was going to try again with that new staff.”

That new staff included coach John Herdman, who reached out to Belanger during her three-year hiatus. He made her transition back to the national program an easy one.

“It went so well,” she described. “Each aspect of the game is taken care of. I mean tactically, technically, but also physically and mentally. It’s good that they take of all of those aspects that are needed so we can be at our best performances. The approach with John and all the staff is so we are the most organized team.

“I’m so happy that I decided to give my career another chance to follow my dream and enjoy it.”

The striker is now quickly approaching 30 caps (she has five goals in 29 appearances, 24 as a starter) and she’s pleased seeing the way the Canadian squad has evolved over the years.

“The roles are now more defined,” Belanger said. “Each person on the field knows what they need to do to not only attack, but defend. Everyone is on the same page. All of the details are set for everyone.”

Belanger is also relishing at the fact she’ll be playing in this summer’s Women’s World Cup on home soil. Canada’s group stage schedule sees the Reds playing China and New Zealand in Edmonton, before wrapping up the first round with a match versus the Netherlands in Montreal.

“This is fabulous,” she said. “It’s exciting because we actually don’t get a lot of opportunities to play in Montreal. To get to play in front of my friends, family and young kids, it’s part of my journey. It’s going to be great having them all there.”

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