World Cup·WOMEN'S WORLD CUP

Canada's Jordyn Huitema to live out childhood dream in France

Jordyn Huitema always planned on making it to the World Cup. The 18-year-old from B.C. will make good on that goal Monday when the fifth-ranked Canadians open World Cup play against No. 46 Cameroon in Montpellier, France.

Eager to blaze trail for future Canadian internationals playing pro out of high school

Since Grade 4, Canada forward Jordyn Huitema has yearned to play in the World Cup and win a championship. The 18-year-old from Chilliwack, B.C., will get the chance, starting Monday against Cameroon in Montpellier, France. (Cole Burston/Canadian Press)

Jordyn Huitema always planned on making it to the World Cup.

"In school you'd have to make short-term and long-term goals as a part of the curriculum," recalled the 18-year-old forward from Chilliwack, B.C. "My long-term was always this tournament.

"Every year that would go by, it would get closer and closer and more in sight. Still until honestly a few months ago, I never thought that it would be really there for me."

Huitema remembers making that first list in Grade 4. Related goals included playing for the women's national team and earning Olympic gold — as well as winning the World Cup.

"My teachers actually got mad because [the list] would never change. They were like 'Jordyn, you need to come up with more.' I was like 'I don't have any more. That's it. That's my one long-term goal."'

Huitema will make good on that goal Monday when the fifth-ranked Canadians open World Cup play against No. 46 Cameroon in Montpellier, France.

School vs. pro route

In truth, the five foot-11 forward has already achieved plenty. Going into the World Cup, she has six goals and 21 caps (including five starts).

From what I've seen of Jordyn, she's got the goal-scoring ability and the sort of height and size and presence that you associate with Christine [Sinclair] on the field.— Canada coach John Herdman, paying the ultimate compliment to forward Jordyn Huitema

She will stay in France after the World Cup. After turning 18 in May, she announced she was joining fellow Canadian Ashley Lawrence at Paris Saint-Germain.

Huitema, who spent five years honing her skills with the Whitecaps FC Girls Elite REX Program, wanted to blaze a trail for future Canadian internationals by joining a European pro club straight out of high school.

But her decision followed plenty of pondering on the school-versus-pro route, with Stanford and UCLA both beckoning.

Huitema was just 13 when she attended an under-15 talent identification camp in 2014. Two months later, she scored the deciding penalty kick in the shootout that earned Canada the CONCACAF U-15 championship over Haiti.

"She's one of the closest things I've seen to [Christine] Sinclair — so no pressure on the kid," then women's coach John Herdman said dryly back in January 2017. "As a youngster, I've seen those qualities of Sinclair — the touch, the movement — in people like Janine Beckie. But from what I've seen of Jordyn, she's got the goal-scoring ability and the sort of height and size and presence that you associate with Christine on the field."

Strong at all levels

Herdman brought her briefly into a camp prior to the 2016 Olympics and said "she knocked it out of the park."

"She was on par with our senior players and looking like she could be the future," he added.

She was 15 years old when she made her Canada senior debut in March 2017 against Spain at the Algarve Cup. In 2017, she became the first player to score for Canada's under-17, under-20 and senior side all in the same year.

In June 2017, she came off the bench in a Toronto friendly against Costa Rica, scoring a pair of goals a minute apart.

Canada's Jordyn Huitema, left, enters the World Cup with six goals and 21 caps, including five starts. (Cole Burston/Canadian Press)

Huitema was just shy of 14 months old when Sinclair, then 16, made her senior debut on March 12, 2000. Years later Sinclair, who says she has tried to take Huitema under her wing, marvels at Huitema's development since joining the national team.

"For me it's just seeing her progression," Sinclair said. "Camp to camp, you just see a different soccer player -- a more well-rounded soccer player. Not just an athlete. Yeah, she's going to be a good one."

Away from the pitch, Huitema has been linked on social media to fellow Canadian teenage star Alphonso Davies, now with Bayern Munich. She says they're only close.

She counts her older brother Brody as one of her major inspirations. A striker, he spent time with Canadian youth teams and captained Duke.

TV ratings approach 11 million for France

The Women's World Cup gripped French TV watchers after nearly 11 million people tuned in for France's opening match against South Korea on Friday.

National broadcaster TF1 said the viewing audience peaked at 10.9 million — a French TV record for a Women's World Cup match — attracting 44% of viewers overall.

The average audience for the match, which started at 9 p.m. in Paris, was 9.8 million.

France, which won the match 4-0 , next plays Norway in Group A on Wednesday.

France is looking to become the first nation to hold the men's and women's World Cup titles simultaneously, following the men's victory last year.

The women's side has never reached the final, with a best finish of fourth place in 2011.

With files from The Associated Press

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