So much for revenge. France prevented Canada from claiming a third consecutive Cyprus Cup title on Monday. Sylvain Jamet recaps Les Bleues’ big 2-0 win.
For the final, Bruno Bini kept the same team that defeated England 3-0 two days ago.
Starting XI: Bouhaddi, Franco, Renard, Meilleroux, Bompastor, Abily, Bussaglia, Le Sommer, Necib, Thiney, Delie
Canada used their usual midfield diamond formation in a 4-4-2.
Starting XI: McLeod, Wilkinson, Chapman, Sesselmann, Scott, Kyle, Schmidt, Sinclair, Tancredi, Julien
The midfield battle – helped in part by France’s numerical advantage – was clearly one of the main reasons for the team’s victory today. Canada rarely got behind France’s defense and didn’t manage to use the flanks as often as French wingers Gaetane Thiney and Eugenie Le Sommer. Both players tracked back the whole game and prevented Canada’s full-backs from gaining ground in midfield. This enabled France to retain the ball and keep the four attacking players in prime positions to do damage.
Space was really at premium in midfield and there were no clear chances in the opening 15 minutes. Both teams did well to contain the opposition and looked to have done their homework going into the match.
The first clear chance came from a run down the left by Marie-Laure Delie. She was sent clear by Thiney after distributing a nice cutback to Bussaglia who proceeded to try her luck from 25 yards out. Shortly thereafter, Le Sommer found herself free in the area but a defender came in with a tackle before she could pull the trigger.
Canada finally found its first chance of the game. A cross from the left made headway, and it was cleared with difficulty. Another one followed from the right wing, but it was caught easily by Bouhaddi.
The first goal came at the half hour mark. Thiney won the ball back around the halfway line after tackling Desiree Scott. She then released Delie straightaway who ran between two defenders and pounded a shot into the top corner leaving McLeod with no chance.
The game stayed very tight until half time as both sides worked hard to prevent the creation of further chances.
Kelly Parker came on for Christina Julien at half time, causing an offensive reshuffle for the Canadian team. Christine Sinclair slotted up front and four other players switched their positions. It is interesting to note that John Herdman actually changed all five attacking positions during the game, but his alterations did not pay off.
The second half started with Canada putting pressure on Bouhaddi with an early cross from Parker. Canada generally tried to impose their will in midfield. Carmelina Moscato got called for a foul on Thiney on the wing. The ensuing free kick was cleared at the far post.
The defining moment of the game occurred midway through the second half. Sonia Bompastor bombed down the left wing, then decided to come inside and was fouled in the penalty area by Rhian Wilkinson. Referee Jenny Palmqvist awarded a penalty that Necib converted. 2-0 France.
Canada came back with an immediate reaction as Sophie Schmidt drew a similar foul in the area. This time, no penalty was awarded.
France got another tremendous chance as Necib was sent through by Le Sommer. McLeod diverted the shot past her post superbly. We then saw a succession of substitutions and the best (and perhaps final) big chance for Canada came in the 77th minute when Chelsea Buckland was found unmarked in the penalty area but launched her shot straight into Bouhaddi.
That was it for Canada’s title defense. They were restricted to very few opportunities due to a superb defensive work by France’s midfield and forwards. Overall, France fully deserved their victory with a better use of the ball and success in midfield.