June 30, 2011

France 4, Canada 0

In one of the most surprising results so far, France easily defeated Canada 4-0 in Group A action on Thursday. This result coupled with Germany's victory over Nigeria clinches a quarterfinal berth for France and eliminates Canada.

The surprise in this match was not who won, but by how much. This game would have been rated a fairly even matchup coming in, maybe a slight advantage to the French. But no one could have foreseen a four goal thrashing that France dished out.

The two teams traded chances in the opening minutes of the match. Jonelle Filigno sent the ball through on the right side for Christine Sinclair, but Berangere Sapowicz came out beating Sinclair and getting just enough of the ball to keep Sinclair from putting any kind of effort on goal. Sinclair was wearing a specially made mask to protect the broken nose she suffered in the match against Germany.

A minute later, Marie-Laure Delie had the Canadian defense beaten, but Erin McLeod cut down the angle and made the save as Delie tried to move around her.

In the 15th minute, Sophie Schmidt put a soft pass through to Diana Matheson, but her first touch was heavy and the chance got away from her.

A Canadian turnover led to the first goal of the match. Elise Bussaglia released a shot from the 18 yard mark that was deflected into the air. Gaetane Thiney headed home the rebound for the goal and France led 1-0. Quite frankly, Thiney and Delie both appeared to be offsides on the play, but it was close.

France nearly made it 2-0 on Louisa Necib's blast from 25 yards in the 31st minute. It was heading into the upper left corner before McLeod reached up and deflected it over the net. A minute later, Necib crossed the ball to just outside the six, but Delie's header attempt went harmlessly wide.

Matheson tried to even the match in the 39th minute as she weaved through the French defense, but her shot from 18 yards went wide left.

At the very end of the half, an inswinging Necib corner was very dangerous, but McLeod reached up and slapped it away. While Canada had a few opportunities, France was controlling the match more and more as the half wore on.

In the 53rd minute, Delie was through the defense, but her shot from 16 yards was grabbed by McLeod. The French continued to assert themselves and Delie's speed was clearly causing the Canadian back line some problems.

Canada once again looked to tie in the 59th minute. Christina Julien stole a pass and quickly got the ball to Sinclair, who charged into the box from the right side. However, Laura Georges defended the play well and Canada came up empty again, not even getting a shot off.

Delie's hustle indirectly led to the second French goal as her pressure led to a Canadian turnover. Gaetane used her first touch to settle and then blasted a brilliant shot that hit the inside of the right post and in, past a diving McLeod who really had no chance on the play. Now 2-0, things were looking very dim for Canada.

Even when the Canadians created chances, something always seem to go amiss. Filigno made a very nice play gaining possession at the 18 yard mark and getting around the defender Sabrina Viguier. But just as it appeared Filigno would have a golden clear-cut shot at the goal, she stepped on top of the ball falling down in the process and failed to get a shot off.

And as happened just minutes earlier, a missed Canadian opportunity was followed by a French goal. Sandrine Soubeyrand's corner was placed perfectly in the center of the goal about nine yards out and a wide open Camille Abily put a beautiful header into the upper left corner of the goal, with the unfortunate McLeod again having no chance whatsoever.

More frustration followed for Canada as a Filigno cross found Sinclair, but the great Canadian striker put it over the bar from 10 yards out.

To add insult to injury, Sinclair was pressing the defense in the 80th minute when Sonia Bompastor clearance caught her square in the face. There was clearly no ill-intent on Bompastor's part and she quickly rushed over to see if she was alright. Some blood trickled down Sinclair's nose, which had been broken just four days earlier. However, it later appeared that the blood came from a newly opened cut at the corner of Sinclair's eye.

While Sinclair was being attended to on the sidelines, Necib played the ball over the top of the Canadian defense and second half substitute Elodie Thomis was easily clear by the time she touched the ball around McLeod and rolled the ball safely into the net.

Perhaps the most startling statistic of the match was that Canada had no shots on frame. France had played one of the most dominant matches so far in Germany.

For France, it was a very convincing win and a quarterfinal berth. Louisa Necib continued to impress and seemed to be involved in nearly every play. The speed of the French forwards gave the Canadian defense problems throughout. And while the French defense seem to have moments of vulnerability, they always seemed to recover in time before any trouble was to come of it.

As for Canada, in a year that looked so promising for them, this has to be a bitter disappointment. Even after the loss to Germany, they weren't in bad position. It must be said that the Canadians' task was always going to be hard given the group they were in, but a 4-0 loss in an important match like this one is almost inexplicable. Canada will clearly need to re-evaluate at this point. They have one more rather meaningless match against Nigeria before heading home.

France and Germany will now meet to decide who wins the group next Tuesday. A tie would give the number one seed out of Group A to France, as they have the advantage in goal differential.