Canada splits final Road to Rio series, falls 1:0 to France

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Despite a dominating performance for much of Saturday’s match in Auxerre, Canada fell to the home team France 1-0 in front of 17, 589 enthusiastic French fans in their final tune-up for the Rio Olympics.

“In all areas of the game we looked good, but we just didn’t have that element of clinincalness around the attacking third,” said Head Coach John Herdman after the match. “It was way better than I have seen (Canada play) against this level of opposition and I think the girls have come leaps and bounds, but they’ll be disappointed because there was one thing in our minds tonight – to push to the win.”

France’s Camille Abily scored off a free kick just outside Canada’s box in the 36th minute to take the lead. Canada kept pressing the offense, creating chance after chance, but could not convert for a goal. The team came close with a goal that was called offside early in the second half.

“I believe we deserved the win, and I very rarely get to say that against France,” said Herdman. “We outshot them, outcrossed them, and at times outplayed them. But it doesn’t matter if the ball doesn’t go in the back of the net. We’re disappointed we didn’t get the result, but we’ve got time (before the Olympics begin).”

Herdman praised the full squad, noting a solid team performance, citing Buchanan and Zadorsky at centre-back, Lawrence and Wilkinson at full-back and Scott in the midfield for their performance, but one player stood out for him.

“It was a really good team performance,” he said. “The one player I would like to talk about is Fleming. We’ve be provoking her over the last four months to take her attacking game to another level, and do what we know she can do which is play forward. I was really proud of her tonight. She just looks like she’s enjoying herself and connecting well with other top players like Sinclair.”

The 18-year-old Fleming was also the goal scorer in Canada’s 1-0 victory over China in Paris on Wednesday.

While picking out the positives, Herdman underlined Canada’s need to achieve results: “As a group we’ll be disappointed with that,” he said. “There’s no celebration when you play well against France and you don’t get a result. We’ll take heart this close to the Olympics, but it’s about trying to push over that threshold and get the result and go into the Olympics with the clear mindset that we can beat these teams.”

Canada appeared to tie the match in the 57th minute and the goal was recorded on the scoreboard, but after a few minutes of discussion on the pitch it was called back and deemed offside.

“All around it was a top performance,” Herdman concluded. “I can’t really fault the players, other than we have to put it in the back of the net, although we did – and thought we had – but that’s life.”