MIAMI, Florida – Resilience and compromise are some words that can describe a professional footballer. Some have lived through it all since a very young age, having to show character on and off the pitch. Canadian center back Vanessa Gilles is the perfect example on how those words embody a player, having done so while representing her National team and club, which at the moment is the eight-time European champions, Olympique Lyonnais.
The 26-year-old has always been surrounded by sports, leaning toward football early on in life. Born in Quebec, she shined with local teams, showing how good of a defender she was, a talent that gave her the chance to take the next step in her career: playing in college.
She represented the University of Cincinnati, an experience that helped her grow as a person and player, and was one of the leaders of her team on the pitch, earning individual awards and a call for the National Team.
She started to represent Canada at the Under-23 levels, after initially representing France for a short period of time, making her debut with the North Americans in 2019. She was later called to be in the Canada squad for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, in which, alongside her teammates, she would taste the glory of victory.
Gilles was one of the players that took a penalty in the shootout in the Final against Sweden for the Gold Medal. While her attempt hit the crossbar, she was a key piece for Canada to reach that stage, playing four games at Tokyo 2020. In the end, the Canadian Women’s National Team became Olympic champions, a title that would give them the push for the next challenge: Qualifying for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Gilles and her Canada teammates arrived in Monterrey, Mexico for the 2022 Concacaf W Championship looking to get one of the direct tickets to play in Australia/New Zealand 2023 and they duly delivered.
Canada earned a runner-up position, falling narrowly to the United States in the Final, but securing not only their World Cup participation, but a place in the Olympic play-in to fight for a spot to defend their title in a country with which Gilles is very familiar: France.
Club-wise, the center back has had different European experiences, the first one being at Girondins de Bordeaux. Three years later, she would go back to North America to compete in the NWSL’s newest franchise, Angel City. Proving her dominance and confidence on the pitch, she then went out on loan to play for Lyon.
Gilles has been a key piece for the eight-time champions, the latest being in the UEFA Women’s Champions League, in which her team finished their participation in the quarterfinals. However, they still have a lot to fight for, with Gilles being ready to take to the pitch again to prove that no matter how many times one can fall, you always need to get back up and try again.
Heureuse et fière d'annoncer ma signature à Lyon en prêt pour cette saison. Ça a toujours été un rêve de rejoindre un tel club et de pouvoir jouer la @wchampionsleague. J'ai hâte de porter les couleurs du club et de contribuer à sa réussite ! Allez l'OL 🦁 pic.twitter.com/090I6LK9ig— Vanessa Gilles (@VanessaGilles) September 19, 2022