As they prepare to kick off their FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup against Nigeria, Canada coach Bryan Rosenfeld believes the African side are not to be underestimated as the Canucks take start against a nation with a burgeoning reputation in women’s football.
Despite an encouraging runners-up finish at the CONCACAF U-17 Championships, Rosenfeld is approaching the game with understandable caution as Nigeria similarly qualified comfortably. However, the Flamingoes’ improving performances across the board in women’s youth tournaments has meant he expects to face a well drilled outfit at Baku’s Tofig Bahramov Stadium.
“You look at a little bit of their history right now with how they’ve done in U-17 and U-20 there seems to be consistency of their play,” Rosenfeld told FIFA.com. “[They] are becoming more and more organised in their women’s football, the talent keeps growing.
“They are definitely a squad to be reckoned with, not to underestimate, and their strengths are definitely something that we are going to have to deal with.”
Having reached the final four in the last two FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cups, including a final in Germany 2010, and the quarter-finals at the last U-17 global finals, Rosenfeld’s reserve is justified. However the Ontario-born coach was sure not to undersell his confidence in his own side.
Coming off the back of a fine display at the regional championships in Guatemala, conceding only once – to USA in the final – and beating fellow Azerbaijan 2012 qualifiers Mexico in the semis, Rosenfeld believes the wind is in their sails.
“I think it was a really positive experience for us in Guatemala, considering in the second half of the final game we had the better of the play, really putting the Americans on their heels. We didn’t get the win but towards Azerbaijan it’s something we can build on and take that momentum into our game on 22 September.”
Also drawn alongside the hosts and Colombia in Group A, Rosenfeld was positive they would be able to play their own game. “We have a team that is very much a hard-working unit,” he said. “But at the same time I believe we do have some special players who can make a difference in a game and with the right supporting cast around those players I think we can do quite well.”
It’s the spine of the Canadian team that he believes particularly holds the key. He expects the likes of Kallen Sheridan in goal, Kadeisha Buchanan in defence to star, alongside the midfield pair of Rebecca Quinn and captain Ashley Lawrence, with front two Valerie Sanderson and Summer Clarke.
The latter were on fire in Guatemala, scoring 11 between them. Though Rosenfeld is undecided on whether they are right for the opening game with Nigeria, he is convinced they are key to their chances as the duo hope to emulate another Canadian attack who have already had something of a vintage summer.
“They’re looking sharp and they’re excited about the tournament and obviously young girls get their inspiration from the likes of Christine Sinclair and Melissa Tancredi,” Rosenfeld revealed. “Them having an excellent run at the Olympics and what they did for our senior women has seen [Clarke and Sanderson] draw a lot of inspiration from those two.”
While remaining restrained about what the next few weeks may hold, Rosenfeld signed off by warning all comers that Canada aim to stay until the last. “Like anyone else we’re going to go for it, we’re going to go as far as we can and we’re confident in our ability to do so.”