Even France is surprised by its resounding win
BOCHUM, Germany -- It may be Germany's World Cup, but France is stealing the show. The French side ripped through Canada with four goals Thursday night, ousting Canada from the World Cup while all but sealing a spot in the quarterfinal. A win or draw from Germany vs. Nigeria will advance Germany and France from Group A.
"If you tell us before the game we were going to win 4-0, we would be surprised," said French midfielder Camille Abily, who scored on a header in the 66th minute to make it 3-0.
The 4-0 result was merely a formality, as France dominated from the start with its first goal in the 24th minute, a header by Gaetane Thiney.
"They didn't make any mistakes," Canadian coach Carolina Morace said.
It's an incredible result in a World Cup that has been so low-scoring. Canada, No. 6 in the world, was a team pegged for the semifinals, and now likely will be sent home early. But France is No. 7, and in the Group of Death, which includes Germany, either France or Canada was bound for a disappointing exit.
"We knew Canada was a good team," French defender Sonia Bompastor said after the match. "We are a little bit surprised, but I told every journalist we have a good team, and in one game, we can beat every team."
France seems to be the team most capable of playing attractive, possession soccer, featuring long stretches of completed passes and offensive buildups from its defensive line. And when the French get a chance to shoot, they take it beautifully. After a terrible giveaway from Canada's backline in the 60th minute, Thiney collected the ball and without hesitation, looped it over goalkeeper Erin McLeod, making the score 2-0. It was an individual piece of brilliance, and an unsaveable shot.
"We want to take pleasure on the field,'' Bompastor said. "To take pleasure, we know we have to play hard defensively and we have to score goals. To score goals, we like to play. We like to move a lot. We like to show good soccer to the fans."
For Canada, it's total disappointment. It was going to be a tough road with Germany, Canada, France and Nigeria, but no one expected it to end so quickly.
"I've been home, like, 10 days since January. For me, I've given up everything," McLeod said. "We obviously have to do something different to compete at the world stage."
Even an inspiring effort from Canadian striker Christine Sinclair wasn't enough to spark her squad. Sinclair played with a facemask after breaking her nose just three days ago in the team's opening loss to Germany. And in the day's most painful moment, Sinclair took yet another hit, when Bompastor's clearance of the ball struck her directly in the face late in the match. Sinclair stayed down on the ground for several moments, as Bompastor, clearly upset about the incident, watched closely.
Sinclair walked off the field, and without subs, Canada played with 10 players, conceding the game's final goal while Sinclair was treated on the sideline. Sinclair eventually returned, continuing to gut it out for her side.
After the match, Bompastor sought out Sinclair on the field. She put her arm around her and rubbed the back of her head.
"I was so sorry because I know she was in pain," Bompastor said.
Winning by four goals puts France ahead in Group A. A draw against the Germans on Tuesday in Monchengladbach in their final group game could put the French team through to the quarterfinals in first place in Group A, a result that would be more stunning than the win over Canada.
For now, the French players are talking only about their win over Canada. Both Abily and Bompastor said they weren't ready to think about Germany.
"We will see," Abily said with a smile. "We just want to enjoy it."
Bompastor had to be dragged away by the hand from the media mixed zone so she could board the bus and her team could return to its nearby hotel. As the bus pulled away, it honked its horn several times, with cheers from the French fans waiting outside.