CanMNT stand tall against world no. 2 France for gutsy 0-0 draw

Final Score: France 0-0 Canada
Goalscorers: None
International Friendly

The Canadian men’s national team delivered its finest performance in well over a year on Sunday in Bordeaux, as they held one of the world’s best teams in France to a 0-0 draw in just the second game of Jesse Marsch’s tenure. After a lopsided defeat in Rotterdam on Thursday, Canada were immense in their response, keeping FIFA’s second-ranked national team off the scoresheet.

Although they didn’t score one of their own, Canada’s effort to hold on for a draw was the best they’ve played since they took on Belgium at the 2022 World Cup, and it’s arguably their most impressive result since beating Mexico and the United States in World Cup Qualifying.

Marsch opted not to make major alterations to his Canada team after the previous friendly against the Netherlands, using the same 10 outfield players but giving Maxime Crépeau the start in goal over Dayne St. Clair in a swap that had been pre-planned.

France, meanwhile, went with a strong lineup too, although Didier Deschamps made a trio of changes from the side that beat Luxembourg midweek: Eduardo Camavinga and Ousmane Dembélé came into the side, as did AC Milan’s Olivier Giroud, who got the start for his last ever international match in his home country. Meanwhile, superstar forward Kylian Mbappé dropped to the bench.

As expected, France were the aggressors early on, although Canada had a dangerous opportunity on the counter that they couldn’t convert in the seventh minute. The hosts had two major chances as well in the first 10 minutes, but Crépeau was able to make a pair of outstanding saves on N’Golo Kanté and Marcus Thuram.

As the game matured though, Canada began to settle in. Some early nerves had produced chaos and disorganization, as well as rushed decisions that gave the ball back to France, but after several scares in the opening 20 minutes or so, Canada found their rhythm and started operating in a more defined game plan.

In fact, Canada ended up with more of the ball in the first half, at 55 per cent possession. They showed good patience in holding onto the ball and recycling it — passing at 92 per cent accuracy, with mostly short passes to play out from the back, while also asking questions of the French defence in transition a few times. Alphonso Davies and Liam Millar combined well on several occasions down the left side as they looked to get around fullback Jules Koundé, while Ismaël Koné found himself with a handful of touches at the top of the box, though he opted not to try a shot from distance.

Alphonso Davies holds off France’s Ousmane Dembélé. (Photo: Canada Soccer)

The sides went into halftime scoreless, and although France had looked certain to score in the first few phases of the game it may have been the Canadians who seemed more likely to find the net by the end of the half.

They very nearly did exactly that just two minutes after the break; as Canada broke in transition following a close call in their own box, Liam Millar drove toward the corner of the penalty area and, rather than taking on either of the two defenders closing on him, he opted for a shot, which beat Mike Maignan but rattled off the crossbar.

Canada’s performance continued to impress throughout the second half; they were heavily tested at times, as expected, and France had a few more dangerous opportunities — Kingsley Coman had an open header in front of goal that he put wide — but the backline and Crépeau combined to limit the damage.

Even when Mbappé came into the game for the last 20 minutes, Canada didn’t deviate much from the plan. Certainly, they became more exposed as France tried to use Mbappé’s pace by hitting him with long balls that bypassed midfield. However, Moïse Bombito in particular did an excellent job of tracking the newly-signed Real Madrid star, sticking with him and forcing into outside lanes.

This was, overall, a very different look for Canada compared with their approach to the Netherlands. Gone was the aggressive press and high line, in favour of a more patient game plan where they tried to take the sting out of a very explosive French attack.

“The two opponents are different,” Marsch explained postmatch. “The Dutch tried to create that with their man-marking, so it means that there’s not pauses in the game and possession like there were tonight. I could see that about midway through the first half we were fatigued; I had some concerns about making it to half, and I challenged them at the half to not be satisfied with that performance and stay focused, and to push themselves as far as they could physically.”

Also among the major positives for Canada in this game was the continued development of a partnership between Bombito and Derek Cornelius at the back. Both players were excellent, marking Giroud in particular out of the game for the most part.

Likewise, the Canadian midfield was a bright spot; Stephen Eustáquio was good distributing the ball into dangerous areas with two key passes, while Ismaël Koné was perhaps even better. The 21-year-old looked very much like a player deserving of a big move this summer, as he won eight out of 13 ground duels, had 93 per cent passing accuracy, and won five fouls to set up dead-ball opportunities.

The feeling around this team is suddenly much more positive than it was after the Dutch loss, as Canada already look to have taken in more of Marsch’s ideas from just a few more training sessions — plus, the coach himself has demonstrated an ability to identify and correct issues.

There remains plenty of work to do in the 10 days before they take on Argentina to open Copa América (and Marsch did say the players have a couple of days off before they reconvene), but Sunday was a perfect reminder of how high a level this Canada side is capable of reaching.

Box Score


France: Maignan; Koundé, Saliba, Upamecano (Konaté 62′), Hernández (Mendy 46′); Kanté, Camavinga; Dembélé (Mbappé 74′), Griezmann (Kolo Muani 87′), Thuram (Coman 74′); Giroud (Barcola 62′)

Canada: Crépeau; Johnston (Laryea 62′), Bombito, Cornelius (Miller 71′), Davies (Hiebert 84′); Buchanan (Shaffelburg 86′), Eustáquio, Koné (Oluwaseyi 84′), Millar; David, Larin (Osorio 71′)




36′ — Yellow: Alistair Johnston (Canada)
39′ — Yellow: Eduardo Camavinga (France) Player of the Match

Maxime Crépeau, Canada

The Portland Timbers goalkeeper was outstanding for Canada, likely securing the number one job for the Copa América after this performance. Crépeau was switched on all game, maxing four excellent saves on chances that seemed destined for the goal, demonstrating his shot-stopping ability against some of the very best players on the planet. Honourable mentions are due to most of the entire Canadian team, though Ismaël Koné and centre-backs Moïse Bombito and Derek Cornelius stood out as well.