Jonelle Filigno: Canada's next great goal scorer

Canadian fans need not worry if star forward Christine Sinclair gets injured at the Women's World Cup in Germany. Coach Carolina Morace has other options at the forward position, including Jonelle Filigno.

20-year-old from Mississauga has a nose for goal

Forward Jonelle Filigno, right, scored three goals for Canada at last year's CONCACAF championship. (Photogamma/Getty Images)

Canadian fans need not worry if star forward Christine Sinclair gets injured at the upcoming FIFA Women's World Cup in Germany.

No doubt, the loss of Sinclair would be a big blow for Canada, but coach Carolina Morace has other options at the forward position, including Jonelle Filigno.

Filigno's tally of eight goals in 39 appearances for the Canadian women's team doesn't make for stellar reading, but statistics only tell half the story, because the 20-year-old firecracker from Mississauga, Ont., plays with a maturity that belies her age.

Opponents caught a first-hand glimpse of her explosiveness at last November's CONCACAF championship in Mexico where she scored four goals and helped set up three others. More impressive was how she started the tournament as a bench player before earning a spot in the starting line-up, including in the match that sealed Canada's World Cup qualification.

Possessing a keen attacking sense, fearlessness in taking on defenders and strong movement off the ball, Filigno could emerge as one of the breakout stars of this summer's World Cup in Germany.

Filigno also has an air of confidence about her, while still recognizing she has room to improve her game.

"I'm still one of the youngest player on this team … but I've been able to play in these international matches against some of the best teams in the world, so I know what it takes to be here," Filigno told CBC Sports.

"Obviously, I'm still not one of the most experienced, but I've made my place here and just have to keep improving and getting better."

Enjoys the hard work

Hard work is something Filigno is not averse to, as demonstrated by her rather quick rise up the ranks.

Four years ago prior to the last Women's World Cup she wasn't even on the radar of former national team coach Even Pellerud. She earned her first cap as a 17-year-old in January 2008, and floated between the senior and under-20 team, before being named to Canada's Olympic side at the Beijing Games.

It took some effort for Filigno to adjust — not just to competing at a higher level, but to sharpen her mental attitude.

"It was still kind of a shock to me I think for a while, for sure," admitted Filigno. "Like with someone like Christine Sinclair, for example, I always dreamed of meeting her, never mind playing with her. Then I got the opportunity to play with her it was kind of surreal to just to play beside her up top."

She continued to split her time between the two sides, before eventually graduating to the senior team last year. Her solid run of performance at the CONCACAF championship was rewarded by new coach Carolina Morace, who recalled Filigno in early 2011 and then named her to Canada's World Cup roster last week.

On the field, Filigno carries herself with an undeniable swagger like all great forwards do. But away from the game, another side of her personality dominates — a more quiet edge emerges, while her competitive instincts are suppressed.

"I'm kind of reserved a little bit [off the field]. I'm still myself obviously but I'm not crazy, and when I'm on the pitch, I think a different side of me comes out — because it's very competitive and it's a different environment on the field ... where I'm going at players and trying to score."

As for Canada's chances of attaining success in Germany, Filigno believes its victories at last year's CONCACAF tournament and the Cyprus Cup in March is just the beginning of things to come from Canada.

"I think we've been together for a while now ... we're like of sisters," stated Filigno. We're all confident and I think a big reason is because all of the success that we've had in the past three months.

"It's helped build our confidence, we know that we can compete at the highest level against the best teams in the world, and we're really confident in going into this World Cup."