October 8, 2012
By Michael Lewis
'What happened to Olympic team was huge warning to whoever thinks CONCACAF is an easy region'
Unlike fellow CONCACAF power Mexico, the United States is not yet assured of a spot in next year's World Cup qualifying final round.
The Americans, who have had a recent history of pretty much breezing through the semifinal rounds, need four points in their final two Group A matches to secure a berth in the hexagonal.
Despite the U.S.'s history, coach Jurgen Klinsmann warned that the confederation is not an easy region to traverse in qualifying. He cited the Americans' Olympic qualifying failure in March. Despite enjoying a home-field advantage in Nashville, Tenn., they could not get out of the first round as El Salvador tied them in stoppage time in their final group-stage match.
ďWhat happened to the Olympic team was a huge warning to whoever thinks CONCACAF is an easy region to go through and to qualify, whether itís for the Olympics or whether itís for the World Cup," Klinsmann said during a media conference call on Monday.
"I think the teams in CONCACAF have improved a lot over the last few years. Thatís why for us itís not that easy to communicate to European clubs and coaches and people how serious, actually, our qualifying campaign is. I spoke with some coaches earlier in the season and they all said, ĎOh, youíll probably go through with no problem.í And you have to tell them no, itís not just automatic because those teams you play as the United States or as Mexico, they will give everything they have. They will give all their heart and they want to upset you. They want to give the big surprise as Antigua is trying to do now. You have to first work your way through that game."
Regardless of the country, there is a good chance the game will be a physical battle with adjustments to the sometimes poor field conditions and a hostile environment, Klinsmann said.
"You first have to accept the physical battle and the challenges that are there," he said. "You have to adjust to the field and the environment. Then, hopefully, once you score a goal, you can start to play in a better way."
Klinsmann reiterated how tough qualifying is in the Caribbean and Central America.
"This is a difficult qualifying campaign," he said. "Itís a marathon. You always have to repeat yourself to people who are outside the CONCACAF region. And you also have to remind your own fans and your own people here how difficult it is. I think Jamaica proved it to us in Jamaica and Guatemala in Guatemala. We have been warned and we are aware of it. Iím sure that players coming in for these two games know exactly what we want them to do.Ē