Crofton's Emily Zurrer will help Canada try to win World Cup

The Canadian women’s soccer team for the 2015 FIFA World Cup, hosted by Canada, is riffing on the Seattle Seahawks’ 12th Man vibe. That’s something the four B.C. players selected Monday to the 23-player roster — including Emily Zurrer of Crofton — can relate to having grown up within the footprint of Seahawks Nation.

“We will be inspired by our nation, and the 12th Player will be huge for us,” said Zurrer, by phone, following the nationally televised roster unveiling at Robson Square in Vancouver.

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“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime dream to play in a World Cup at home. It’s the most excited I’ve ever been for a major tournament. The amount of support we are already feeling is incredible.”

But that coin has a flip side.

“We’ve talked a lot about the pressure [that comes with playing at home],” responded Zurrer.

“We can use that adrenalin to motivate and inspire us. I can’t wait to experience the 12th Player.”

That will happen first at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, where world No. 8 Canada opens in Pool A with games against China on June 6 and New Zealand on June 11 before closing pool play June 15 against the Netherlands at Olympic Stadium in Montreal.

“Edmonton will be incredible . . . I still remember all those people coming out to Commonwealth to cheer on Canada in the 2002 U-19 World Cup,” said Zurrer, of an event that became a touchstone moment for the growth of women’s soccer in this country.

The 2015 World Cup championship game will be played July 5 at B.C. Place.

The B.C. players on the host-nation roster are Zurrer, midfielder Sophie Schmidt from Abbotsford, goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc from Maple Ridge and Christine Sinclair of Burnaby, the all-time Canadian leading-scorerwith 153 goals who has been named team captain.

“Today marks the culmination of three years of dedicated work from the team and we are pleased with the final [roster] selection,” said Canadian head coach John Herdman, in a statement Monday.

“After the Olympics [bronze medal at London 2012], we challenged the players to shed an old skin and strive to be even better as a team, and as individuals. The competition for each position was fierce. Ultimately, we feel this group of 23 makes us the best team we can be across our four corners of the game. We’ve got a fantastic group of players here who are ready to step up and proudly represent their country on the biggest stage. It’s now up to Canadians to show them they are not alone on this journey and that they’ve got the strength of an entire country with them.”

Veterans Sinclair, Zurrer, Schmidt, LeBlanc, Diana Matheson, Desiree Scott, Rhian Wilkinson, Carmelina Moscato, Melissa Tancredi and Erin McLeod are being augmented by a few players from the next generation such as Jessie Fleming, Ashley Lawrence, Kadeisha Buchanan and Adriana Leon.

“The players know each other and feel connected,” said Zurrer, of the national side’s heavy veteran tilt.

The 27-year-old Zurrer, with 82 caps, remains a mainstay of the Canadian backline after starting her soccer career as a forward. The Cowichan High School and Lower Island Metro graduate is a two-time Olympian with a bronze medal from London 2012 — although she was injured midway through the Games — after a quarter-final appearance at Beijing 2008. This will be Zurrer’s third World Cup, and the Islander will certainly also be part of the Canadian equation at the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics.

“There have been some low times and some wonderful times. It’s been a long journey and I’ve grown so much,” added the former Nanaimo FC player, who starred as a three-time All-American and three-time Big Ten first-team all-star for the University of Illinois Fighting Illini.

Zurrer will be back playing on the Island today, along with 2015 World Cup teammate Selenia Iacchelli, for a friendly game against local kids at 11:30 a.m. on the front lawn of the Legislature to promote the Canadian Tire Jumpstart charity which helps pay registration fees for children who would otherwise not be able to play sports.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

Twitter.com/tc_vicsports

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