'My journey is a little different to most' - Benfica star Lacasse on the brink of long-awaited Canada debut

Cloe Lacasse Benfica Women 2020-21SL Benfica

Unorthodox. That’s the word Cloe Lacasse uses to describe the journey she has taken to her first international call-up.

The 27-year-old could make her senior debut for Canada, bronze medallists at the last two Olympic Games, on Tuesday night against England, semi-finalists at the 2019 Women’s World Cup.

“When you're growing up playing soccer in Canada, it's what all players aspire to do, to represent their nation,” she tells Goal. “It would be a huge honour.”

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There are a lot of differences between Lacasse and the players she has spent this past week training alongside, differences that go beyond caps.

Most have taken the more traditional route to this position, working their way up through the youth teams while at college, then either being drafted into the NWSL or joining a giant of European women’s football.

Lacasse instead moved to Iceland after college, with it not even two years since she moved on. Now inspired by the Brazilian influences around her at Benfica, her style is much different from anything else the North American nation might have in their ranks – and in a very good way.

“I definitely think if I am given a fair shot and a fair look at, I have a different style of play that I think they're accustomed to,” she explains.

“That's because of where I play as well, playing out in Portugal with a lot of Brazilian players, it's a little bit more of a liberal way of playing.

“I like to think that I'm an extremely dynamic player as far as going forward, but I'm also somebody who's going to work their ass off to defend, which is also a little bit different for an attacker. I definitely think I have a lot that I can contribute to this group.”

Bev Priestman, Canada’s new head coach and England's former assistant, has asked Lacasse to show her what she’s got - and she will certainly be eager to do so.

Back when the winger was 18 years old, she was called up for the under-20s national team, but that proved to be her only experience with her country, until now.

Having seemingly fallen off the radar with Canada, interest from the Iceland women’s national team could have seen her take a very different journey.

“I became an Icelandic citizen, not to be a football player, that's not the reason,” she says, with the situation often misconstrued. “But of course, Canada not giving me that call for so many years, I'd be lying if I said there aren't mental struggles with that. Patience is a virtue.

Cloe Lacasse quote PS gfx 1:1Goal

“I definitely thought about [Iceland] because every professional football player aspires to be on that international stage. Right? It's definitely something I had to think about.”

In the end, it didn’t matter. Despite the interest from the Nordic nation, no FIFA clearance was obtained and Lacasse never had to make a decision.

Instead, her path changed. Spotted in Iceland by a Portuguese agent, she was soon on her way to Benfica, who have one of the most exciting projects in Europe right now. There, she has won two trophies - captaining the side to the latest of those, their second Taca da Liga triumph in March - and experienced Champions League football for the first time.

Canada has always been in the back of her mind throughout the success. Speaking to Goal back in November, Lacasse was hopeful that the visibility and exposure in Portugal - combined with her excellent form - could help her receive the invite she craved.

“I definitely think Benfica being such a renowned club, and now they're investing so much money in their women's programme, it's definitely put me on the global stage,” she says now. “The publicity that we're receiving out there is fantastic.

“We have so many internationals, with the Portuguese internationals and the Brazilian ones, so now I'm definitely around the talent pool that I need to be to be getting those types of international calls.”

It might have taken longer to get to this point than she would have liked, and it certainly won’t have panned out as she may have imagined as that 18-year-old heading to her first international camp, but Lacasse is now on the brink of achieving a childhood dream.

“I definitely believe that everything happens for a reason,” she adds. “I'm meant to be here and that's why I'm here today and that's just my journey. It's a little different than most.

“I am proud of the steps I've taken. There's nothing I would change, to be honest. I'm happy with the route that my career is currently going and I'm excited to see what it has in store for me in the future.”