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Canadian women renew acquaintances with rival French in soccer friendly

04/08/2015 03:41 EDT | Updated 06/08/2015 05:59 EDT
TORONTO - It will be no ordinary soccer friendly Thursday when the Canadian women take on France in Bondoufle, just south of Paris.

The French have a score to settle after losing the bronze medal to Canada on a stoppage-time goal at the London Olympics.

"They definitely have an axe to grind with Canada," Canadian coach John Herdman told a media conference call Wednesday. "France offered us this game and I think it's for a reason. The reason is we have been a bogey team for them.

"At least half that squad will carry the memories of that Olympic game and that last-gasp equalizer that we scored in France the last time we played them in the 1-1 draw (in March 2013)."

For the Canadians, it's one last chance to impress before Herdman names his roster April 27 for this summer's World Cup.

"This is a great opportunity for our players. In the words of our captain, it's the time to see where we're at," said Herdman, quoting Christine Sinclair. "We've put a lot of work in this year as a group. We've been progressing quite nicely. But this is one of those real tests, it's a true test."

FIFA ranks France third, behind the U.S. and No. 1 Germany. But Herdman, whose team is eighth, sees the French as the best team in the world on current form.

"In terms of weapons, they have four or five Sinclairs across the front line," Herdman said.

Sinclair and other Canadian veterans have their own long memories. France blanked Canada 4-0 in round-robin play at the 2011 World Cup to eliminate the Canadians from contention.

The French have beaten both the U.S. and No. 4 Japan this year, although they were beaten 2-0 by the Americans in the final of the Algarve Cup recently.

"They're a wonderful team," said Herdman. "They were at the Olympics but they've definitely developed in depth and strength in areas such as their fullbacks and the addition of one or two midfield players that certainly have a lot more craft and flair than the players we've seen at the Olympics.

"So this is a stronger France. It's a younger France. It's a vibrant France and it's a team that's beaten every team in that top five."

Canada has had the last laugh recently, however.

Kaylyn Kyle scored in the fourth minute of stoppage time to secure a tie two years ago in Nice. And Diana Matheson's 92nd-minute goal knocked the French off the Olympic podium.

Matheson, a 166-cap veteran who drives the midfield, is not with the team in France. She continues her comeback from a torn anterior cruciate ligament injury suffered against Japan in October.

Herdman called Matheson a fantastic athlete who was doing everything she can to get healthy again.

"As a group we're just hoping that she can get back in time," he said.

Lauren Sesselmann is back in the squad from her ACL injury, sustained 13 months ago in practice at the Cyprus Cup. Herdman said the defender will see action Thursday.

Herdman says his roster isn't set yet.

"We have three weeks to go before that announcement. We've got this big game. We've got two more weeks of training where people are pushing. And there's still room for people to come in and out."

Canada has one more game before kicking off the World Cup on June 6 in Edmonton against China. The Canadians host No. 6 England in Hamilton on May 29.

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