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Canada forward Christine Sinclair and Japan forward Mana Iwabuchi vie for control of the ball during the first half in a SheBelieves Cup soccer match on Feb. 22, 2023, in Frisco, Texas.The Associated Press

Canada coach Bev Priestman leaves the April international window with perhaps as many questions as answers.

The injury-depleted Canadian women fell short in an attempted comeback Tuesday, beaten 2-1 by fifth-ranked France in a women’s soccer friendly for their fourth loss in their past five outings.

Down 2-0, Jordyn Huitema pulled one back for sixth-ranked Canada in the 71st minute after French goalkeeper Constance Picard failed to corral the ball and it fell to the feet of the Canadian striker for a simple tap-in for her 16th goal for Canada. The goal came off a cross by substitute Jayde Riviere that was intercepted by a French defender whose touch back eluded her ‘keeper.

The Canadians rallied after the gifted goal, with substitute Cloe Lacasse coming close with a header in the 74th minute. But they could not pull even.

“Disappointed at the two goals we conceded. We can do better,” said Priestman. “But I’d rather learn this now [than at this summer’s World Cup].”

The French went ahead in the 51st minute with Grace Geyoro, finding separation from her marker, heading home an accurate cross from Delphine Cascarino. Sandie Toletti and Cascarino combined on a nice give-and-go before Cascarino, eluding both Sophie Schmidt and Allysha Chapman, played provider.

The goal spurred the French on before an announced crowd of 14,201 at Marie-Marvingt Stadium. And Léa Le Garrec made it 2-0 in the 64th minute, pouncing on an errant clearance from Kailen Sheridan to chip the out-of-position Canadian ‘keeper from just outside the penalty box.

Priestman was without the injured Kadeisha Buchanan, Janine Beckie, Deanne Rose, Nichelle Prince, Desiree Scott and Quinn, who goes by one name. Veteran centre back Shelina Zadorsky is recovering from illness.

Those seven players have a combined 759 caps.

The absences have denied Priestman a chance to build combinations, with probably just two closed-door matches to come before the July 20 start of the World Cup.

The Canadian women are expected to arrive in Australia at the beginning of July for a pretournament camp. Priestman, who has to declare her 23-woman roster by July 10, says she will likely take a bigger group Down Under to make final roster personnel decisions given health concerns.

“In many ways as a coach, you’d like to get rid of the clutter early. I don’t have that luxury,” she said after the game.

Beckie will miss the World Cup following knee surgery but Priestman hopes the others will return in time.

Rose and Prince are recovering from Achilles injuries while Scott picked up an injury at the end of the 2022 season that required surgery. Quinn is dealing with a leg issue.

Riviere, coming back from injury, came in off the bench Tuesday.

France pressed the Canadians hard in their own end from the get-go, often producing turnovers. And they had slightly more of the possession in a scoreless first half, using their speed to attack down the flanks.

“We showed spells in the game,” said Priestman. “I was really pleased with the reaction to the 2-0 score line. I think what you saw out there was probably we’re lacking a bit of experience. I said to the group I don’t mind losing as long as we learn and I think there’s been some warning signs in terms of overplaying. I think we got punished by that again and for me we can’t go into the World Cup, like that. But I do know the World Cup’s not won in the April window. I think I see the bigger picture and some of the players that stepped in did a great job.”

Canada came into the match having won just one of its previous four games, beating No. 9 Brazil (2-0) while losing to the top-ranked U.S. (3-0), No. 11 Japan (2-0) and Brazil (2-1).

Tuesday’s game took place exactly 100 days from the kickoff of the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

Canada has been drawn in Group B at the World Cup with No. 10 Australia, No. 22 Ireland and No. 42 Nigeria. Australia served notice it will be a tough out at home by defeating No. 4 England 2-0 in London earlier Tuesday.

Priestman started with a 4-2-3-1 formation with Sheridan behind a back four of Ashley Lawrence, Vanessa Gilles, Jade Rose and Chapman. Julia Grosso and Schmidt shielded the backline with Jessie Fleming deployed behind Adriana Leon, Huitema and captain Christine Sinclair.

The injuries made for an inexperienced bench with the 12 substitutes totalling 127 caps, with Riviere and Gabby Carle accounting for 72 of those.

The Canadians came out wearing their new red kit, adorned with Maple Leafs, with black shorts and socks – and purple wristbands to symbolize their fight for equality.

Priestman sent on Riviere, Lacasse, Simi Awujo, Evelyne Viens, Clarissa Larisey and Sydney Collins, who earned her first senior cap, in the second half.

Both teams have gone through turmoil of late with the Canadian women battling for equity in their labour dispute with Canada Soccer while the French women essentially mounted a revolt against former coach Corinne Diacre.

France was coming off a 5-2 win over No. 26 Colombia on Friday in Clermont-Ferrand in Herve Renard’s debut as coach.

Renard, who coached Saudi Arabia’s men at last year’s World Cup in Qatar, succeeded Diacre last month after she was fired in the wake of several key players, including captain Wendie Renard, saying they would not take part in the World Cup if she remained in charge.

The Canadian women are now 5-8-3 all-time against France and 1-5-1 since beating the French 1-0 in the bronze-medal game at the 2012 London Olympics. The one win over that period came in the quarter-finals of the 2016 Rio Olympics.

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