Canada v France: The other Rematch

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It may not come with all the hype and fanfare that Canada-USA will get on June 2nd but there is another big rematch coming up for the Canadian Women's National team as they take on France for the first time since the Olympic bronze medal match.

You can bet not one member of the French Women's National team forgets how they felt the moment they saw Kaylyn Kyle tumble out of the way just in time to allow Diana Matheson's shot to find the back of the net in the 9nd minute at the City of Coventry Stadium.

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That one play, that one moment, was enough to hand Canada the Olympic bronze medal at London 2012 despite the French side running them ragged for much of the previous 91 minutes of play. Canada were out shot by a massive 18-4 margin and dodged a number of quality French chances by inches but in the end it only took Canada a single chance to get the job done.

As much as losing the semifinal to the United States has been on the mind of many Canadians since the Olympics that defeat in the bronze medal game is surely still present in the minds of French players. They played so well at London 2012 and probably deserved to come away with something to show for it but were undone by one moment of magic. Now though, they get the chance to extract at least a small measure of revenge when they take on Canada in Nice on Thursday.

Matheson will be in position to collect her 149th cap when Canada takes on France having earned 148 caps and scored 13 goals so far in her career for the national team. By the time Canada finishes their friendly against England she could very well become the second player to ever reach 150 caps for Canada (trails only Christine Sinclair) but it will be some time before she ever earns a bigger cap or scores a bigger goal than THAT goal against France.

With the Olympic bronze medal match in the mind of both teams it should be a very good game. Both sides should be in decent form having kept busy during the month of March. For France it was a pair of friendlies against Brazil which both ended in draws while Canada claimed a second place finish at the Cyprus Cup. Many of the French squad are also in the middle of their domestic league seasons while the Canadians are mostly in the latter stages of preseason with their NWSL clubs.

All the pieces are in place for this to be a very entertaining match. Both squads have the majority of their top players there with France's Bruno Bini bringing back the majority of his Olympic squad. France will again be led by the likes of Camille Abily, Louisa Necib, Marie-Laure Delie, and the ever-present veteran Sandrine Soubeyrand.

Canada will counter that strong French squad with a strong team of their own as John Herdman has elected to bring back most of that bronze medal winning team for these friendlies. A total of 14 players on Canada's 19 woman roster can claim to be bronze medal winners while France will have 11 players for their Olympic squad.

The game should a closely contested one considering the recent meetings between the two countries. Canada managed to snatch a win at the Olympics giving them a slight edge in the all-time match-up with 4 wins, 2 draws, and 3 defeats. France had been on a bit of a roll against Canada before that game though as they beat Canada 2-0 in the 2012 Cyprus Cup final and 4-0 at the 2011 Women's World Cup.

France will certainly not be pushovers as the 5th ranked team in the World have been proving in recent years that they can compete with just about anyone. Add to that the fact that Canada is still in a transition phase as John Herdman is working to set the squad up to be in a position to compete for the World Cup in 2015 and Canada might just have their hands full.

Herdman has a fair few veterans at his disposal but he showed during the Cyprus Cup that he is not just calling up young players to bring them along for the ride but is instead looking for them to make a contribution to the team so they can be ready to fill bigger roles down the road.

He has again brought some young players into the squad and others who have been on the fringe of the team in recent years as they struggled to transition from the youth ranks into the senior team. For the likes of Jodi-Ann Robinson, Adriana Leon, and Tiffany Cameron these matches are another chance to show that they have what it takes to be regular contributors now and not just down the road. Continued strong performances will be needed by all of the younger players to show that they deserve to be key members of the team come 2015 as Canada looks to replace some of the aging veterans and bring in more quality to the side.

Then there is the teenaged duo of defenders that Herdman has again shown plenty of faith in. Ashley Lawrence and Kadeisha Buchanan were both given a lot of responsibility in the Cyprus Cup being thrown into the defense against some tough opposition and they did enough to stay in the squad for these friendlies. They could both end up being key players in 2014 and 2015 so with these upcoming friendlies being streamed Canadian fans will get the chance to see the teenaged duo in action, hopefully.

The match against France is set to kick off at 12:00 Eastern on Thursday with Sportsnet once again providing an online stream with Nigel Reed on the call. Canada may end up taking one of those steps back that John Herdman said we could expect before they can move forward but no matter what happens in France on Thursday fans of Big Red will always have THAT goal to warm our hearts.

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