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Christiane Endler wants her star performance to be a statement for Chilean women’s soccer

Meet the superstar goalkeeper who stonewalled the USWNT and raised her nation’s profile.

PARIS, France — Even if you don’t regularly follow Chilean women’s soccer, at least one name will stick in your mind after this World Cup: Christiane Endler.

Age 27, Endler steadily progressed through several clubs in Chile, England, and Spain before taking on the role of Paris Saint-Germain’s starting keeper. Thanks to her current gig, she began the tournament as one of Chile’s highest-profile players. After two group games, she’s shown that she’s the rock upon which many of her squad’s positive performances are built.

Against the United States, she was monumental. “Christiane Endler, the Chilean goalkeeper performing miracles,” read one French headline. “A festival of stops,” read another.

The stats demonstrate the media’s remarks weren’t mere hyperbole: 26 US attempts to Chile’s one, with nine shots on target and fifteen corners. Endler is officially credited with six saves on the night, but it feels like she made twice that, holding the United States at bay in the second half. She absolutely stonewalled Christen Press, and not for lack of trying on Press’ part. The United States won the game, 3-0, having out-possessed their opponent 68 percent to 32 percent, and yet Endler still came away as Player of the Match.

On Sunday night, the miracle-maker herself was last through the mixed zone in the bowels of Parc des Princes, nearly an hour after the final whistle. She clutched her Visa-branded Player of the Match trophy in one hand as she dutifully moved from interview to interview, first to the Chilean press, then the international journalists. She looked tired after her nonstop heroics in goal, her shoulders slightly slumped, but not defeated. Just quiet, ready for the night to be over, but not wanting to pass up the assembled media.

For Chile’s WNT, unranked by FIFA in 2016 due to their own federation not scheduling games for the squad, there seems to be a sense that it needs to take every opportunity to put their story out into the news.

“Always when you play today with the US, you have a bigger [platform] to show up, and if you do good, you can be known,” Endler says. “And for me it’s really important that everyone knows a little bit more about the women’s football in Chile, but it’s good for my career too. So they saw me and maybe in the future I can go and play [in the US]. Of course I have two more years here in Paris and I think this performance will help me here too.”

Endler’s point about the United States boosting the profile of the teams they play is well-taken; many of the American headlines from the game mentioned Endler, and over the past couple of weeks, there have been a flurry of English-language news pieces about the Chilean womens’ struggle just to be allowed to compete as a national team. But what happens when the World Cup inevitably ends? When asked what can be done to continue the progress of the team, Endler called upon Chilean clubs to get on board.

“I think it’s really important that in Chile, the clubs get involved with women’s football,” she says. “They are not investing in women’s football. Our league is not professional either, so it’s hard to be dedicated 100 percent to football. So when you come [to the World Cup], you notice the difference is too much. We are working for that. They are changing. We are getting better conditions to perform, but we are a few steps back from the others, from the USA. I think we are changing that, but it’s a little bit slow, and I hope in the future this is just the beginning of something better for us.”

Endler also didn’t hesitate to say that FIFA needs to take a stronger hand in developing women’s football. “They give money for women’s football but the federations don’t use [that money] actually in women’s football,” she says. “So they have to be more strict with these kinds of things to be sure that the money is going in the right way. And of course if FIFA gives more importance to the women’s football, women’s football will grow up.”

Helping to carry her team through a World Cup is a lot of pressure for a 20-something player. Endler is aware of the expectations placed on her in particular, a natural consequence of her development into a top-tier goalkeeper.

“I work really hard to be good today and the whole World Cup,” she says. “Of course you always want to do well. Sometimes you can do better or not. The first half, I think I could do better. But for me I have always to be a good starter for my team because I know that they need me and I want to give them the confidence to play a little bit more.”

Surely Endler gave Chile as much confidence as she possibly could with her lights-out play. Her stone-cold denial of Press in particular was so good it could have been the start of a great professional beef, but Endler has nothing but respect for Press.

“She’s so fast and she can shoot very strong,” Endler says. “She can shoot with the left or the right so you never know where she’s going to shoot. It’s hard. Good for me today that she can’t score, I think.” Endler grins at the gentle banter, then adds, “It’s nice to play against a great player always.”

No doubt the Americans felt the same way about her. In the mixed zone, Press herself acknowledges it feels better, as a forward, to have great shots stopped by equally great saves, rather than putting up a bad performance with low quality or no chances. Given Endler’s remark about a potential future playing in the United States, it’s probable that she’ll continue confounding American forwards in the future.

Chile has at least one more game to play in this World Cup, fighting for third place in Group F with Thailand, who is currently sitting at a minus-17 goal differential. That match is Endler’s best chance for a clean sheet, but there’s no doubt that whatever happens, fans will remember her name.