To be the best, play the best

DAVE CRASH CAMERON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:24 AM ET

They hope to have a good time when they're here. But it's the long time that they are looking at.

As in the big picture. As in establishing a consistency on the international level.

''These two games are part of a longer- term preparation of trying to achieve some higher goals for the team,'' national women's soccer coach Even Pellerud said yesterday.

Pellerud was referring to matches against Germany in Vancouver on Sept. 1 and here at Commonwealth Stadium at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 4, as he unveiled Canada's lineup at City Hall yesterday.

The matches against the world's best women's team may be ''friendlies,'' but they are important to Canada's big picture.

''We are in the middle of a new cycle leading up to the World Cup of 2007. We went to Europe twice (this year) and played some big countries soccer-wise such as France, Germany, Norway, Sweden,'' Pellerud said.

''Now this is the next stage to have Germany come visit us. We are very, very excited to have the team play in Canada again.''

It follows the approach Pellerud brought with him when he was named Canada's coach in 1999 after five years at the helm of Norway's national squad. He was a key part of the program that saw the Norwegians develop into a power, capturing World Cup silver in 1991 and Olympic bronze in 1996.

It's a plan witnessed and appreciated by Vancouver's Andrea Neil, only the second player - after Charmaine Hooper - to pass 100 caps for Canada.

''There's a few of the old guard, Charmaine, myself, Isabelle Morneau, as current members of the national team that in any given year would only pick up a few caps, a few international performances. And that's not enough,'' said Neil. ''As soon as Even came into the program he created more of a year-round program for us as players to get together. It's helped us. You can see the gap closing. You're seeing a young team that is maturing.''


Videos

Photos