Canadians set to clash as rivals Lyon, PSG square off in Champions League semifinal
Buchanan, Lawrence, Huitema aiming to follow Alphonso Davies with women's title
Canadian soccer fans are still buzzing about Alphonso Davies' Champions League victory with Bayern Munich last weekend, but there could be more to cheer about in the week ahead as the women's side takes centre stage.
It's guaranteed that at least one — if not two — Canadian women will have a chance at the title this Sunday at Anoeta Stadium in San Sebastián, Spain.
Wednesday's semifinal between reigning champions Olympique Lyonnais and Paris Saint-Germain features three national team stars. Kadeisha Buchanan patrols at centre back for six-time Champions League winner Lyon, while fullback/midfielder Ashley Lawrence and striker Jordyn Huitema have hopes PSG can pull off an upset.
If their most recent matches are any indication, the game should be an exciting one. Just over two weeks ago, Lyon edged its rival in penalties to take the Coupe de France Feminine. Last fall, OL won on spot kicks in the inaugural Trophée des Championnes (competed between the winners of the Coupe de France and the league champions). In league play, Lyon squeaked by PSG 1-0.
WATCH | Wolfsburg awaits Champions League final combatant:
Lyon has won 32 of 44 all-time meetings, with just five PSG wins and seven draws. PSG's last win over Lyon came in the French Cup in 2018.
The winner of the team's next match will play two-time Champions League winners Wolfsburg in Sunday's final. The German outfit edged Barcelona 1-0 in the first semifinal.
On Wolfsburg's roster is one of the best footballers in the world: Danish striker Pernille Harder. Other key players include team captain Alexandra Popp of Germany, Polish sensation Ewa Pajor and Norweigan midfielder Ingrid Syrstad Engen.
Consistency at Lyon
To say Lyon is a powerhouse doesn't do the club justice. They've had unparalleled success with 14 Ligue 1 titles, nine Coupe de France Feminine and six Champions League titles.
Winning doesn't get old.
The club's president and owner Jean-Michel Aulas not only has deep pockets, but also the belief that women should be treated on par with men. They have the same access to training and playing facilities, medical teams and travel. Their salaries are generally much higher than their counterparts in Ligue 1 and other international leagues.
The list of stars goes on — even without former Ballon d'Or winner Ada Hegerberg of Norway, out with a knee injury, the team is rock solid.
And if you're talking about rock solid, Buchanan's name comes to mind. The 24-year-old from Brampton, Ont., is steady and fearless at the back, making punishing tackles and often marking the opposition's top players.
She's been a mainstay on the Canadian national team since she was 17, playing in two Women's World Cups and winning bronze at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Since signing with Lyon in 2017, Buchanan's won three Champions League crowns.
PSG eyeing upset
OL's French rival Paris Saint-Germain may not have a trunk full of titles like Lyon, but it's hungry for an upset.
Young French stars like Marie-Antoinette Katoto, Kadidiatou Diani and Grace Geyoro are determined to disrupt their veteran national teammates on Lyon. Other prominent internationals on PSG include German midfielder Sara Däbritz, Denmark workhorse Nadia Nadim and defenders Irene Paredes (Spain) and Formiga (Brazil).
Reigning Canadian player of the year Lawrence features prominently for PSG at fullback, playing both the right and left side.
She's known as a box-to-box player, always keen to join the attack, set up her teammates with bending crosses and even score the odd goal. Lawrence also possesses the pace to recover in transition.
Huitema, now 19, went from high school to the pros, signing a four-year deal with PSG last year.
The native of Chilliwack, B.C., has four goals in four Champions League matches this season.
With her 5-foot-9 frame and penchant for scoring goals, she's drawn comparisons to international soccer's all-time leading goal scorer Christine Sinclair.
After watching boyfriend Davies capture one of soccer's greatest prizes, she'll aim to add her own Champions League title to her trophy case.