France looked well on its way to a deserved victory over the Canadians, but substitute Kaylyn Kyle ensured that the North American side would leave on a positive note.In slick conditions and up against a technically masterful opponent, Canada's women's national team battled back from a first half deficit to draw 1-1 with France in Nice on Wednesday.
Kaylyn Kyle scored the equalizing goal at the stroke of full time, completing an unlikely Canadian fightback against its European opposition.
Unable to break through for nearly the entire first half, the French bossed possession and squandered numerous fine scoring opportunities. The best of the bunch was a Lousia Necib effort from 25 yards out that rocketed off the crossbar in the 20th minute, although France would also rue a number of other chances that amounted to nothing.
Given the overwhelmingly one-way traffic in the first 45 minutes, Erin McLeod was not called into action all that much. The Canadian goalkeeper's shining moment of the first half came in the 34th minute when she plucked the ball off the feet of an opposing attacker ten yards from goal, stopping what looked to be a sure tally for the home side.
Looking likely to make it to the halftime break without conceding, Canada finally succumbed to the relentless French pressure just seconds before the whistle when Elodie Thomis unleashed a long range bomb that McLeod had no chance on. The shot screamed into the upper right corner and gave France a much-deserved 1-0 lead at the half, although the Canadians were lucky that it was not a much higher scoreline at that point.
The second half started in much the same fashion as the first, with France retaining the lion's share of possession and looking threatening. And just like most of the first half, the French were unable to connect in the final third over the first 25 minutes of the second half.
That lack of killer instinct would eventually back to haunt the home side, as Canada saw its first real chance in the 71st minute. Substitute Kyle headed a Diana Matheson free kick at goal, forcing the French netminder into a superb reaction save to preserve the lead.
The Kyle chance -- along with a slew of substitutions for both teams -- gave the visitors confidence, as Canada managed to put the French defence on the back foot for stretches. It was hardly concerning for the hosts, however, as the French looked content to allow Canada more time on the ball in mostly non-threatening areas.
France nearly paid for that strategy 10 minutes from full time, when another header by Kyle almost found its way into the French goal. The Canadian midfielder rose to meet a Matheson corner kick, and her nodded effort looked goal-bound, if not for a last-ditch clearance by a defender.
Moments later, it was Kyle again threatening the French goal, as she pounced on an errant ball spilled by a French defender who had slipped on the slick surface. Kyle fired a shot from within the France penalty area, but her momentum prevented her for getting around the ball enough for an accurate strike, and the attempt hit the outside of France's net.
The trio of Canadian opportunities woke the French up, opening up the match for a frenzied back-and-forth finish. France managed a couple of good chances on McLeod's goal, but poor finishing and good reflexes by the Canadian 'keeper combined to stop the scoreline from growing any larger.
Then, in a nearly identical scenario as the ending of the first half, Kyle finally got her goal with virtually the final kick of the game. The 24-year-old was sent in alone on goal and made no mistake in firing a shot high into the top left corner of the French goal, giving the Canadians the equalizer.
Canada will consider itself fortunate to have escaped France with a draw, but the hosts can only blame themselves for not putting the game out of reach earlier.
The Canadians take on England next on Sunday in Rotherham.