Rosenfeld lays the groundwork

It is now 23 years since a young Bryan Rosenfeld embarked on a journey into the unknown, departing for the former Soviet Union and the FIFA World Youth Championship. For the then 19-year-old, it was to prove a dispiriting debut on the international scene as the Canada side he was representing finished bottom of their section, leaving their goalkeeper with lingering frustrations about the gaps in their preparations.

The Canucks, Rosenfeld quickly concluded, had arrived at USSR 1985 ill-prepared for the vastly different challenges posed by Australia, the hosts and a Nigeria side for whom an 18-year-old Samson Siasia was on the scoresheet. Now, as coach of the Canadian women's U-17 side, he is intent on ensuring that, should his team fall short at the inaugural FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup, it will not be because they have failed to do their homework.

"Thinking back to that youth tournament, comparing it to last year's U-20s here in Canada, it had nowhere near the kind of glamour it has now," he recalled. "Even though we were playing in front of crowds of 10-to-15,000, it was in stadiums built to hold 100,000, so there was a bit of an eerie feel to it.

"Looking back, the lesson I take most from it in terms of going to New Zealand is the importance of preparation. Back then, everything was really just geared to getting our own game right; there was very little thought for the opposition. Personally, that's the one thing I would change, and it's the something I am making a big part of our preparations for New Zealand. I've been studying DVDs of all the teams we're playing and looking at analysis and statistics - anything that will help us pinpoint and take advantage of their weaknesses."

I was happy with a lot of things but what it really reinforced to me was our weaknesses
Rosenfeld on his side's shortcomings.

Canada, who face the hosts in New Zealand 2008's opening match, were the last of the 16 teams to qualify, securing their berth with a 1-0 victory over Mexico on 27 July. The focal point of their subsequent preparations has been a trip to face fellow finalists France in a friendly double-header, and though there was much to admire in the North Americans' showings, Rosenfeld offered a candid assessment of what the narrow back-to-back defeats taught him.

"I was happy with a lot of things but what it really reinforced to me was our weaknesses," he told "Before the CONCACAF finals, I'd have said to you that we had a pretty deep squad. But just before that tournament we picked up injuries to four or five of our key players and have since found out that we won't have Monica Lam-Feist [a star player who will instead travel with the U-20s to Chile].

"What that's left us with is a squad that still contains a fair amount of quality, but is clearly short on depth. Below the first 11, we have a lot of younger players who showed against France that they don't have the same level of maturity in international football. The result is that our chances in New Zealand could well rest on whether we can keep our main players fit and healthy."

Rosenfeld is renowned in his homeland as a demanding coach; a character so driven and serious about his football that he earned the menacing moniker 'Death' during his playing career. However, despite insisting on "players who want to win the World Cup" during Canada's early preparations, he admits that his immediate goal in New Zealand will be a little more modest.

"Success for us would be getting into the quarter-finals," he conceded. "After that, it's a case of taking it game-by-game. We'd probably be looking at playing either Germany or North Korea if we made it through and they are clearly two of the top sides in the world right now. But what a great challenge it would be. The girls certainly need to understand that it's not enough just to compete anymore."