Twenty for Canada 2015: France's Wendie Renard

(Soccer America continues its countdown to the 2015 Women's World Cup with the third of 20 profiles of the women to watch in Canada.)

Wendie Renard, who at 6-foot-2 is one of the tallest players in women's soccer, has come a long way from her days as a child in Martinique. Told in school her dream job -- pro soccer player -- was not available for women, Renard was not deterred and became at 22 the captain of the French national team, one of the favorites at this year's Women's World Cup.

WENDIE RENARD:
Country: France
Age: 24. Position: Defender
Club: Lyon (France)
Twitter: @WRenard

One of the first decisions of French national team coach Philippe Bergeroo when he took charge of the Bleues after Euro 2012 was to install Renard, now 24, as his captain.

It was a natural move for the Martinique-born defender, by then already captain at French powerhouse Lyon. "It's a role I learned little by little," she told L'Equipe, "as I was vice-captain under Sonia Bompastor in her last season." (Bompastor, who played in WPS and starred on the French national team, retired after the 2013 season.)



Renard has a good working relationship with Bergeroo. "The captain has to be a conduit with the staff," he explained to L'Equipe. "We have regular discussions. The coach asks me how I feel about certain things, and I ask him things. We exchange lots of ideas."

Twenty for Canada 2015:
1. Veronica Boquete
2. Lara Dickenmann

Renard likes taking on responsibility. She was a spokesperson for France's successful bid to host the 2019 Women's World Cup and she is an ambassador for Euro 2016, the UEFA men's championship.  At 22, she opened her own restaurant in Martinique -- "Wendies," of course. "She is very mature," says her agent, Luc Labonne, "and thinks like a 40-year-old woman."



Renard, who got her name from Wendy in "Peter Pan," is the youngest member of her family. Her father died when she was eight. It was then that she knew what she wanted to do. Watching a French women's national team match on television, she told her mother, "Don't worry, soon I'll be wearing their uniform." At school, she wrote a paper about how she would grow up to be a professional women's soccer player only to be told by the principal that there wasn't such a job.

As a child, Renard was just as good a team handball player as a soccer player, but it was clear her future was in soccer, which she played with boys at school. She moved to France at the age of 16, joining Lyon, which had another Martinique player, goalkeeper Joan Hartock. Six months later, Renard debuted with the first team and is the only woman who's played on all nine French league championship teams -- and counting -- at Lyon.

At 20, she made her debut on the national team and was a reserve at the 2011 Women's World Cup in Germany. Soon afterward, then-coach Bruno Bini put her in the starting lineup.

Being named captain meant a lot to Renard's mother, who was in the stands when she scored her first goal for France in a friendly against Mexico in 2011. "She was moved," says Renard. "I let her learn the news on the radio. I called her later and she was really happy. I think she shed a few tears as eight years ago when I was in Martinique with her, I was nothing. Today, I represent my country and have to set an example."
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