The injury-depleted Canadian women fell short in an attempted comeback Tuesday, beaten 2-1 by France in a women’s soccer friendly for their fourth loss in their last five outings.
The fifth-ranked French went ahead in the 51st minute with Grace Geyoro, finding separation from her marker, heading home an accurate cross from Delphine Cascarino. Sandie Toletti and Cascarino combined on a nice give-and-go before Cascarino, eluding both Sophie Schmidt and Allysha Chapman, played provider.
The goal spurred the French on before an announced crowd of 14,201 at Marie-Marvingt Stadium. AndLea le Garrec made it 2-0 in the 64th minute, pouncing on an errant clearance from Kailen Sheridan to beat the out-of-position Canadian ‘keeper from just outside the penalty box.
Jordyn Huitema pulled one back for sixth-ranked Canada in the 71st after French goalkeeper Constance Picard failed to corral the ball and it fell to the feet of the Canadian striker for a simple tap-in for 16th goal for Canada. The goal came off a cross by substitute Jayde Riviere that was intercepted by a French defender whose touch back eluded her ‘keeper
The Canadians rallied after the gifted goal, with substitute Cloe Lacasse coming close with a header in the 74th minute.
France pressed the Canadians hard in their own end from the get-go, often producing turnovers. And they had slightly more of the possession in a scoreless first half, using their speed to attack down the flanks.
Olympic champion Canada came into the match having won just one of its previous four games, beating No. 9 Brazil (2-0) while losing to the top-ranked U.S. (3-0), No. 11 Japan (2-0) and Brazil (2-1).
Tuesday’s game took place exactly 100 days from the kickoff of the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand — in the penultimate FIFA window before the soccer showcase. The Canadian women are expected to play two closed-door matches in Australia ahead of the 32-team tournament, which opens July 20.
Olympic champion Canada has been drawn in Group B at the World Cup with No. 10 Australia, No. 22 Ireland and No. 42 Nigeria.
Canada coach Bev Priestman was without the injured Kadeisha Buchanan, Janine Beckie, Deanne Rose, Nichelle Prince, Desiree Scott and Quinn, who goes by one name. Veteran centre back Shelina Zadorsky is recovering from illness.
Those seven players have a combined 759 caps.
Beckie will miss the World Cup following knee surgery but Priestman hopes the others will be return in time.
Rose and Prince are recovering from Achilles injuries while Scott picked up an injury at the end of the 2022 season that required surgery. Quinn is dealing with a leg issue.
Priestman went with a 4-2-3-1 formation with Sheridan behind a back four of Ashley Lawrence, Vanessa Gilles, Jade Rose and Chapman. Julia Grosso and Schmidt shielded the backline with Jessie Fleming deployed behind Adriana Leon, Huitema and Christine Sinclair.
The injuries made for an inexperienced bench with the 12 substitutes totalling 127 caps, with Jayde Riviere and Gabby Carle accounting for 72 of those.
The Canadians came out wearing their new red kit, adorned with Maple Leafs, with black shorts and socks — and purple wristbands to symbolize their fight for equality.
Picard had to be sharp early, acrobatically getting a hand to a Sinclair shot from close range in the fifth minute after a slick build up by Leon and Grosso. At the other end, Clara Matteo’s shot was off-target in the 15th minute on a French counterattack.
Sheridan stopped French star Eugenie Le Sommer in the 20th minute after the Canadian defence was breached. Fleming found Huitema behind the defence in the 31st minute but Picard made the save.
Delphine Cascarino, whose twin sister Estelle was also in the French starting lineup, hammered a shot directly at Sheridan in the 35th minute.
An unmarked Le Sommer hit the Canadian crossbar with a header in the 49th minute. Two minutes later Huitema appealed unsuccessfully for a penalty after she went in the penalty box.
Priestman sent on Riviere, Lacasse, Simi Awujo, Evelyne Viens, Clarissa Larisey and Sydney Collins, who earned her first senior cap, in the second half.
Sinclair, making her 323rd appearance for Canada, came off in the 63rd minute
Both teams have gone through turmoil of late with the Canadian women battling for equity in their labour dispute with Canada Soccer while the French women essentially mounted a revolt against former coach Corinne Diacre
France was coming off a 5-2 win over No. 26 Colombia on Friday in Clermont-Ferrand in Hervé Renard’s debut as coach.
Renard, who coached Saudi Arabia’s men at last year’s World Cup in Qatar, succeeded Diacre last month after she was fired in the wake of several key players, including captain Wendie Renard, saying they would not take part in the World Cup if she remained in charge.
The Colombia game saw the return of Le Sommer, who was left out of the last year’s European Championship squad by Diacre. The 33-year-old Le Sommer scored twice after a two-year absence with Delphine Cascarino, with a brace, and Geyoro scoring the other goals.
Le Sommer is France’s all-time leading scorer with 86 goals in 175 games.
The Canadian women came into Tuesday’s game 5-7-3 all-time against France and were 1-4-1 since beating the French 1-0 in the bronze medal game at the 2012 London Olympics. The one win over that period came in the quarterfinals of the 2016 Rio Olympics.
France had won the two previous meetings, both by 1-0 scores, in Calais in March 2020 and Rennes in April 2018.