There's no rest for the wicked, nor for the Canadian women's team. Fresh off punching its ticket for the 2020 Tokyo Games by reaching the finals of last month's Concacaf Olympic qualifying tournament, Canada returns to action this week when it participates in the Tournoi de France. Iconic Canadian captain Christine Sinclair, a 36-year-old native of Burnaby, B.C., made history at the Olympic qualifiers when she scored her 185th goal for the Canadian women’s team, moving her past retired American star Abby Wambach as the all-time leading goal scorer in international soccer, for both men and women. Sinclair (who has 293 caps) finished the qualifying tournament with three goals to take her career total to 186, and she'll be looking to add to her tally this month in France. With matches scheduled against three nations ranked in the top 10 in the world, Canada will face stiff competition in France as it begins its preparation for this summer's Olympics in Japan. Here's what you need to know about Canada at the Tournoi de France. RELATED READING: Matheson's return a good sign for CanWNT ahead of Tokyo Olympics
What is the Tournoi de France?

This year marks the first edition of the Tournoi de France, an invitational tournament held in Calais and Valenciennes. It is a four-nation international competition, where all of the teams face each other in a round-robin format. Canada will play hosts France on March 4, and then meets the Netherlands on March 7, before closing things out on March 10 vs. Brazil. All three of Canada's games will be held at the Stade de l'Épopée in Calais.
Why is the Tournoi de France important to Canada’s Olympic preparation?

The Netherlands is third in the current FIFA rankings, followed by France (No. 4), Canada (No. 8) and Brazil (No. 9). Like Canada, the Netherlands and Brazil have already qualified for the Tokyo Olympics. The Canadians sailed through the Concacaf Olympic qualifiers, winning their first four games by a combined score of 23-0 against teams that were ranked far lower than them. Canada then lost 3-0 to the U.S. in the finals, its first serious test of the competition. Canadian coach Kenneth Heiner-Moller said he’s relishing seeing Canada going up against three of the best teams in the world at the Tournoi de France, as it serves as ideal preparation for the Tokyo Games. "It's going to give us some great insight on our players and who are actually already at the level where we can compete against Tier 1 opposition consecutively, like game to game to game. Not just one game but across games," Heiner-Moller recently told reporters. He later added: "The three teams are different but what is obviously a common theme is the quality … I’m super excited. I know we’re going to have some great answers to some of the questions we have for right now." Canada is 5-6-3 against France all-time, including a 1-0 win in the bronze medal game at the 2012 London Games. The French beat Canada 1-0 in their last meeting, an April 2018 friendly in Rennes. The Canadians sport a 9-1-3 record versus the Dutch, with their lone loss coming during the group stage of last summer's FIFA Women's World Cup staged in France. Canada is 8-8-6 all-time against Brazil. The Canadians beat the Brazilians for the bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics, but the South Americans won the previous encounter between the two nations last November.
What is the makeup of this Canadian roster?

Canada’s roster for this tournament will feature all 20 players who participated in the recent Concacaf Olympic qualifiers. The two additions are veteran midfielder Diana Matheson and centre-back Vanessa Gilles. In total, 17 players who won bronze at the 2016 Rio Olympics are part of this Canadian roster, while veterans Matheson, Christine Sinclair, Sophie Schmidt, and Desiree Scott were also bronze medallists at the 2012 London Games. Teenager Jordyn Huitema, goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé, centre back Kadeisha Buchanan and fullback Ashley Lawrence are also on this Canadian squad – all four were named to the all-star team for the Olympic qualifying tournament. Huitema won the Golden Boot with a tournament-leading seven goals, while Labbé took home the Golden Glove award after posting three clean sheets. Here is the full roster list for the Tournoi de France: Goalkeepers: Sabrina D’Angelo (Vittsjö GIK/Sweden), Stephanie Labbé (NC Courage/NWSL) and Kailen Sheridan (Sky Blue FC/NWSL). Defenders: Kadeisha Buchanan (FCF Olympique Lyonnais/France), Vanessa Gilles (FC Girondins de Bordeaux/France), Rebecca Quinn (Seattle Reign FC/NWSL), Shelina Zadorsky (Orlando Pride/NWSL), Gabrielle Carle (Florida State University), Allysha Chapman (Houston Dash/NWSL), Ashley Lawrence (Paris St-Germain FC/France) and Jayde Riviere (University of Michigan). Midfielders: Jessie Fleming (UCLA), Julia Grosso (University of Texas at Austin), Diana Matheson (Utah Royals FC/NWSL), Sophie Schmidt (Houston Dash/NWSL) and Desiree Scott (Utah Royals FC/NWSL). Forwards: Janine Beckie (Manchester City/England), Jordyn Huitema (Paris St-Germain FC/France), Adriana Leon (West Ham United/England), Nichelle Prince (Houston Dash/NWSL), Deanne Rose (University of Florida) and Christine Sinclair (Portland Thorns FC).
Are there any surprises on this Canadian roster?

A very pleasant surprise is that Diana Matheson is set to return to the national team fold after a lengthy injury layoff. Matheson (18 goals and 203 caps for Canada) sat out last summer’s FIFA Women’s World Cup in France after having foot surgery. Her last appearance for the Canadian women’s team was on March 1, 2019 in an Algarve Cup game versus Scotland. Matheson has missed Canada’s last 17 games during her injury absence. Matheson, a 35-year-old from Oakville, Ont., plays professionally for Utah Royals FC in the National Women’s Soccer League. Canadian coach Kenneth Heiner-Møller has welcomed the return of Matheson, lauding the veteran midfielder as someone who has a "soccer brain (that) is pretty massive." "This will be a great opportunity to see her in the environment, with our team, but also against some of the best teams in the world," Heiner-Moller said. He later added: "She understands the game … She knows the game from different perspectives and positions."
Other than Christine Sinclair, who is Canada’s player to watch at this tournament?

A case can be made for several players, including Manchester City standout Janine Beckie, who is having a standout season with Manchester City, as well as teenager Jordyn Huitema (who plays in France with PSG) and Ashley Lawrence, voted Canada’s player of the year for 2019. But keep a close eye on Julia Grosso, a young midfielder who plays NCAA soccer with the University of Texas. Grosso was handed her national team debut by John Herdman in 2017, coming on as a late substitute in a friendly vs. the United States. Since then, she’s collected 18 caps for Canada, and she featured for Canada at the recent Concacaf Olympic qualifiers. Grosso has an important backer in her corner in Christine Sinclair, who believes the 19-year-old native of Vancouver has a big future ahead of her, especially with the national team, if she wants it. "She can do whatever she wants in this game, she’s that talented. She has an excellent role model to look up to in Desiree Scott, to learn from and absorb as much as she can. I fully believe (Desiree) is the best holding midfielder in the game and one day I’m sure Julia will fill her shoes. She has a long future with this team," Sinclair told
What’s next for Canada?

After the Tournoi de France, Canada will play its first home game of 2020 on April 14 when it hosts Australia in a friendly at Vancouver’s BC Place Stadium. Australia is seventh in the current FIFA world rankings. The game against Australia will be Canada’s first at BC Place since earning a 1-1 draw with the United States on Nov. 9, 2017. Canada holds a slight edge in its last six meetings against Australia, with three wins and one draw. Watch all of Canada's games at the Tournoi de France live on OneSoccer. To subscribe, CLICK HERE

Continue reading...