Canada vs. France | 2016 Women's Olympic Match Preview

Christine Sinclair, Rhian Wilkinson - Canada women's national team (CANWNT) - smiles

Women's Olympic Soccer, Rio 2016 – Quarterfinals
Corinthians Arena – Sao Paolo, Brazil
August 12, 2016 – 6 pm ET

There’s not a single soccer fan in Canada who doesn’t remember the last time these two teams met at the Olympics.

It was the bronze-medal game at London 2012. After absorbing waves of attacking pressure from the French, who simply couldn’t find the back of the net on the day, Canada won it at the death, with Diana Matheson scoring the goal to give her country its first-ever podium finish in Olympic soccer.

The winner on Friday won’t immediately earn a medal, though the losing side can kiss goodbye its dreams of standing on the podium in Rio.

France, ranked No. 3 in the world, will come into the match as favorites (just as they did four years ago), though the group stage results have given the No. 10-ranked Canadians reasons for hope.

Head coach John Herdman’s side survived an early red card to beat Australia 2-0, before handling Zimbabwe 3-1 and procuring a first-ever victory against Germany to win Group F with nine points.

France, for their part, earned second place in Group G by steamrolling past Colombia and New Zealand, while narrowly losing 1-0 to the top-ranked Americans.

The winner gets a semifinal matchup against either Germany or China next week — not to mention bragging rights for the next four years.

History in the making

While the bronze-medal game holds an outsized place in the memories of Canadian soccer fans, it is a bit of an anomaly among recent results between the two teams.

In nine match-ups since 2006, the record is two Canadian wins, three draws and four French victories (including a 4-0 blowout at the 2011 Women’s World Cup). Canada has been held off the score sheet in five of those games, including their final pre-Olympic friendly on July 23 of this year, a 1-0 win for France in Auxerre.

Triple triple

Canada’s first-ever perfect group stage came down to the heroics of their three-pronged attack, in the form of Christine Sinclair, Melissa Tancredi and 21-year-old Janine Beckie.

Beckie, an Olympic debutante, is tied for the tournament lead with three goals, while her veteran counterparts have two apiece. Tancredi — who some doubted would even make the final roster — led the way in Canada’s historic upset over Germany, notching a brace in the 2-1 win.

Sinclair and Beckie will be fresh after both being rested for the Germany game, though it remains to be seen whether 34-year-old Tancredi will start alongside them against France.

Line ’em up

Since joining the team in 2011, Herdman has sought to build a system that relies upon attacking danger from the fullback position. To that end, he’s converted striker Josée Bélanger and midfielder Ashley Lawrence into outside backs, with positive results thus far.

He also has available a pair of more “traditional” fullbacks, Allysha Chapman and Rhian Wilkinson. His lineup decision against France will provide a big clue as to the team’s tactical approach for, at the very least, the opening portion of the game.

In the middle of defense, young stalwart Kadeisha Buchanan will be back after serving a one-game suspension. But who will she line up alongside? Shelina Zadorsky, 23, has been Buchanan’s regular partner in recent months, though 20-year-old Rebecca Quinn has also performed well in her first Olympic Games.