Canadian women’s team to face France in last pre-Olympic friendly

Canada's Christine Sinclair. (Darryl Dyck/AP)

The Canadian women’s soccer team plays its final pre-Olympic warmup Saturday when it takes on highly rated France in Auxerre.

There is history between the two. Canada edged France 1-0 for the bronze medal four years ago at the London Games on Diana Matheson’s stoppage-time goal. In the two games since then, the French have won 1-0 with a 1-1 tie, both in France.

Both teams are coming off wins over 12th-ranked China. France, ranked third in the world, defeated the Chinese 3-0 on July 16 while No. 10 Canada won 1-0 in Paris on Wednesday.

Canadian coach John Herdman chose the tight schedule because he wants to recreate the type of short turnaround his team could see at the Olympics.

Herdman says he will not hold anything back Saturday in his team selection.

"We’ll go ahead with our strongest starting 11 against France and we’ll push them for as far as they can go," he said.

Herdman started Stephanie Labbe in goal against China behind a backline of Ashley Lawrence, Kadeisha Buchanan, Shelina Zadorsky and Rhian Wilkinson. Jessie Fleming, Desiree Scott and Sophie Schmidt were in midfield. Captain Christine Sinclair was up front with Janine Beckie and Matheson.

Melissa Tancredi, Deanne Rose, Rebecca Quinn, Josee Belanger, Nichelle Prince and Allysha Chapman came on at halftime.

Tancredi was subsequently forced off with an ankle injury. There was no immediate update on her health Friday.

Labbe is expected to start again Saturday with Herdman electing to give Sabrina D’Angelo a few more days to nurse a wrist injury.

Herdman likes what he saw in Labbe against China.

"She did well. I was impressed with Labbe," he said. "We’ve been working hard on a few areas in her game, One is coming for crosses. She didn’t have much to do but she showed a lot of composure behind the back four, which was excellent I thought. Exactly what the team needed — that little bit of leadership."

The French have become a European powerhouse fuelled in part by players from Lyon, which won a third straight UEFA Women’s Champions League last season.

Ten Lyon players were named to the UEFA Women’s Champions League squad of the season. That all-star team included Lyon’s Sarah Bouhaddi, Wendie Renard, Amel Majri, Griedge M’bock Bathy, Camille Abily, Louisa Necib and Eugenie Le Sommer, who were all part of the game-day squad against China.

Canada will leave France for Brazil where it opens Olympic play Aug. 3 against No. 5 Australia in Sao Paulo.