CARSON, Calif. – The United States and Mexico are expected to snag two of CONCACAF's three guaranteed berths at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil – failure would be disastrous for either country – but Jurgen Klinsmann can't afford to see things that way.
The US head coach, preparing a largely domestic squad for a Jan. 29 friendly against Canada and the Feb. 6 kickoff to CONCACAF's final-round qualifying Hexagonal, says it’s folly to overlook any nation in the competition.
“We know going into the Hexagonal, especially going into those countries [for away games], it's very difficult,” Klinsmann told reporters following the national team's training session on Thursday at the Home Depot Center. “Even for Mexico, it's very difficult. It's very difficult. And so we take one game at a time and collect, hopefully, one point after another after another to get qualified. I'm very confident we're going to do that.”
The 10-game final round begins with a trip to Honduras, with several players from this camp's roster expected to be part of the team that travels to San Pedro Sula for the game in February. The US are then home March 22 against Costa Rica, in Commerce City, Colo., with a showdown against Mexico four days later at Estadio Azteca.
Klinsmann is greatly looking forward to the Mexico clash.
“I can't wait,” he said. “I mean, a game like Mexico-US is like Germany-Holland. Those are the games you want to play. ... You respect them, you admire them and then you want to beat them.”
The other two entrants, Jamaica and Panama, are on the US schedule in June. The tournament runs through mid-October.
Mexico, who have qualified for the past five World Cups, are CONCACAF's No. 1 team in FIFA's rankings, coming in 13 places ahead of the US at No. 15. El Tri are coming off championships at FIFA's Under-17 World Cup and at last year's London Olympics and are looking for a third straight CONCACAF Gold Cup crown this summer.
“They are [No. 1 in the rankings] right now because they did well over the last couple of years,” Klinsmann said. “To have pole position for many people, that's totally fine for us. But at the end of the day, when we play them, we want to beat them.
“We went already last year to Azteca and – surprise, surprise – we won there [1-0 in mid-August], but we know every game is very, very difficult and every game is a new one to play, so the more we can play against each other, the more both teams can benefit. Because we both want to go to the World Cup, and we both want to do well at the World Cup. We don't want [only] to pass the first round, we want to go further.”