Women's bronze medal football preview: Canada vs. France
Canada v France Preview
MATCH IN A SENTENCE: Canada will look to put the drama of the last few days behind them when they attempt to record their first-ever top-three finish at a major tournament in Thursday’s bronze medal match against France, who were also disappointed by a narrow semifinal loss earlier in the week.
BREAKDOWN: Canada’s national women’s football team will return to its home away from home for Thursday’s showdown with France. They’ve already played three Olympic matches at City of Coventry Stadium, and following a 2-1 loss to Japan to open their campaign they beat South Africa 3-0 and Great Britain 2-0 in this arena.
Swapping London for the West Midlands will signal a much-needed change of pace for the Canadians following the chaos of the last few days. On Tuesday, less than 24 hours after Canada’s controversial 4-3 defeat to the United States in extra time, FIFA announced it was launching an investigation into comments made by a handful of Canadian players regarding the performance of Norwegian referee Christina Pedersen.
Captain Christine Sinclair, who scored a hat-trick in the losing effort, was particularly pointed in her criticism of Pedersen, saying, “We feel cheated. It’s a shame that in a game as important as that, the ref decided the result before [the match’ started.”
FIFA have since decided to prolong their inquest, which means Sinclair and teammate Melissa Tancredi (who was also scathing in her assessment of Pedersen) will be available to face France. The two have combined for 10 goals at this tournament and will once again be central to Canada’s attacking play.
France also lost their semifinal by a single goal—a result that stung even more given Elise Bussaglia’s missed penalty in the 77th minute. Les Bleues outplayed Japan for long stretches in that match and will feel confident in their ability to beat Canada for a third straight time on Thursday.
It was barely a year ago, after all, that France pummelled Canada in the group stage of the 2011 World Cup, winning 4-0 in Bochum through a Gaetane Thiney brace and additional goals from Camille Abily and Elodie Thomis.
Thomis is one of four French players to have scored twice at these Olympics so far (along with Wendie Renard, Marie-Laure Delia and Laura Georges); only number-one ranked United States can claim to have as diversified an attack as France.
ESSENTIALS: Canada and France have met eight times in international competition with both sides winning three matches and drawing the other two. Their most recent meeting was at the Cyprus Cup in March, when France won 2-0 in Larnaca.
FIFA’s press release regarding its investigation into the behaviour of several Canadian players following Monday’s semifinal defeat to the United States reads as follows: “In view of the elements currently at its disposal, the FIFA Disciplinary Committee considers that further investigation will be needed regarding incidents that occurred after the conclusion of the match between Canada and the USA on August 6 at Old Trafford...Further information will be provided in due course but not prior to the bronze medal match between Canada and France on August 9.
Canada manager John Herdman has said that while his players were obviously disappointed to lose out on a chance to play for a gold medal they’ll nevertheless be focussed on beating France on Thursday. “They’ve come to see the flag rise,” he said. “That’s the job. They came here for that and the job is not finished.”
Swedish referee Jenny Palmqvist will oversee Thursday’s bronze medal match between Canada and France. Palmqvist previously refereed the United States’ 1-0 win over North Korea in the group stage.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Christine Sinclair. The Canada skipper led by example in the semifinal and will be looking to end these Games with a performance worthy of a medal.
“I wouldn’t want to be the team that plays us next,” she said following the loss to the United States.
With 143 international goals to her name she is only 15 back of all-time women’s scoring leader Mia Hamm.
BETLINE: Canada 5/2; Draw 13/5; France 1/1. Canada will be looking to channel the emotion of Monday’s defeat into a performance good enough to beat a France side that, player for player, is clearly the more talented of the two.