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Klinsmann on USMNT, USA soccer culture, CONCACAF and more

Klinsmann on USMNT, USA soccer culture, CONCACAF and more

Posted by Liliana Castaño on April 25, 2014

It is hardly a surprise that USA have made considerable progress since Jurgen Klinsmann took charge of the side over two and a half years ago. Under his stewardship, the Stars and Stripes qualified with some ease for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ and have backed that performance up with notable friendly wins against the likes of Italy, Mexico and Bosnia.

The former Germany boss is now facing the biggest challenge of his tenure stateside. With Germany, Portugal and Ghana lying in wait for his team in the group phase at Brazil 2014, the inimitable Klinsmann will seek to steer them into the knockout rounds, a daunting task he discussed in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com.

FIFA.com: You scored your last FIFA World Cup goal against Mexico at France 98 and now you’re in charge of another CONCACAF team. How do you feel the zone has developed over the last few years?

Jurgen Klinsmann:
 It’s developed a lot. The teams get more recognition and respect now, and I think the region has come on leaps and bounds. You only have to look at what Costa Rica did in 2006 and Honduras in 2010. And then there’s Mexico, who show what they can do every time they take part, and USA, who have been consistent performers. 

What do you think has been the biggest improvement?

They have always had skilful players, but they’ve been light years away from the most powerful nations in terms of pace and intensity, and that’s where I think the gap has closed. Beating a CONCACAF team is no easy task any more. They always make it hard for the opposition. Mental strength also comes into it at the World Cup, and the zone still has to show that its teams have what it takes to reach the quarter-finals or the last four.

Since your time as Germany coach you’ve always been regarded as a great motivator. Tell us about the work you’ve done with USA in trying to get their mental approach right?

We started to work on it as soon as I took the job on and we went into the final phase of qualifying for Brazil 2014 convinced that we’d have to score late goals to get results and away from home too. In football you need to have special players to get special results and if you don’t have those players, like Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, then you have to look for a way of compensating, by working as a team and having a winning mentality. We went to Russia and Bosnia and got good results there, and we won in the last few minutes in Panama when the game looked to be over. We’re making progress.

Do you think you can make the team as mentally strong as Germany?

It’s a mental approach that takes years to develop. It’s not something that happens overnight. I think the confidence Germany has comes from years of success. They’ve won the World Cup and the European Championships three times each, and they’ve turned games around in the last minute time and again. That confidence is not down to coincidence, though. It’s the result of a lot of hard work. It doesn’t always work out, but it comes about through dedication and experience and that’s what we’re trying to achieve with USA.

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