CALAIS, France — Viviane Asseyi scored on a marvellous free kick to give France a 1-0 win over Canada in the opening match Wednesday of the inaugural Tournoi de France.
The game was not as close as the score would indicate. The Canadian women were on the back foot throughout on a damp day at the Stade de L'Epopee.
It was one-way traffic in the first half as fourth-ranked France kept eighth-ranked Canada in its own half. But despite the territorial advantage and wide edge in possession, the French were unable to generate many scoring chances.
That changed in the 55th minute when Asseyi, an attacking midfielder who plays her club football for Bordeaux, curled a free kick over the Canadian wall and past a diving Kailen Sheridan from some 25 yards out.
The Canadians can feel a little hard done by. The foul that prompted the set piece looked questionable, with Amel Majri going down easily from a Desiree Scott challenge.
The Canadians looked for positives after the match.
"We can take a lot from this and move forward and really come out the team we know we are and the team that came out of the (recent Olympic) qualifying tournament," said Sheridan. "We need to make sure for the next game we show up and are really prepared and we possess (the ball) more."
Canada plays the third-ranked Netherlands on Saturday and No. 9 Brazil next Tuesday.
Sheridan started behind a back three of Kadeisha Buchanan, Rebecca Quinn and Sophie Schmidt. Allysha Chapman and Jayde Riviere served as wingbacks with Ashley Lawrence and Scott in the midfield behind captain Christine Sinclair, Jordyn Huitema and Janine Beckie.
The French came out aggressively, taking the game to the Canadians. France forced a string of corners to start, collecting eight in the first half alone.
Marie-Antoinette Katoto, a 21-year-old forward from Paris Saint-Germain, tormented the Canadians in the early going. But the French pressure, while constant, did not produce many scoring chances to start.
A well-worked French attack off a Canadian turnover forced Sheridan to punch away a dangerous cross in the 26th minute. Schmidt had to be sharp to block a Majri shot in the 30th minute.
Canada's first chance came in the 33rd minute when Sinclair beat defender Wendie Renard to a cross but her header soared just off target.
The final 10 minutes of the first half saw Canada begin to spend some time in the French half. Buchanan ended a strong 45 minutes with a yellow card for taking down Katoto, whose header soon after was stopped by Sheridan just before the break.
Jessie Fleming came on for Chapman to open the second half with Sheridan forced into action early to palm away a low cross from Kadidiatou Diani.
Diani split the Canadian defence in the 67th minute but her toe-poke went just wide. Sheridan was quick off her line in the 77th minute to get to a through ball before French substitute Delphine Cascarino.
Veteran Diana Matheson came on in the 83rd minute, winning her 204th cap after a year-long absence due to a toe injury.
French 'keeper Sarah Bouhaddi beat substitute Nichelle Prince to the ball in stoppage time.
Canada dropped to 5-7-3 against France, including a 1-0 quarterfinal victory at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Canada also beat France 1-0 for the bronze medal at the 2012 London Games.
The French had won 1-0 last time out in a April 2018 friendly in Rennes.
France has now won five straight matches since losing 2-1 to the U.S. in the World Cup quarterfinals last summer. Canada exited in the round of 16, beaten 1-0 by Sweden.
The French came into Wednesday's game having blanked Spain (2-0), Iceland (4-0), Kazakhstan (3-0) and Serbia (6-0).
The Canadians have gone 5-5-0 since the World Cup, booking their ticket to the Tokyo Olympics despite losing 3-0 to the top-ranked U.S. in the final of the recent CONCACAF Women's Olympic Qualifying Championship.
France will miss out on the Olympics, having failed to be one of the top three European finishers at last summer's World Cup. Britain, the Netherlands and Sweden will represent Europe in Tokyo.
The Tournoi de France is one of several women's tournaments going on, joining the Algarve Cup in Portugal, Cyprus Cup, SheBelieves Cup in the U.S., Pinatar Cup in Spain and Turkish Women's Cup.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 4, 2020.
The Canadian Press