Jurgen Klinsmann is daring to dream that the US can pull off mission improbable in the Copa America Centenario semi-finals today as the hosts face a Lionel Messi-inspired Argentina closing in on a long-awaited tournament triumph.
Klinsmann has already met his goal of reaching the final four after helping his side navigate a challenging group and an awkward quarter-final against in-form Ecuador, but despite a raft of suspensions which will decimate his first choice starting lineup at Houston’s NRG Stadium, Klinsmann is bullishly talking up his team’s chances as they prepare to take on the might of Argentina.
The German World Cup winner cites his team’s impressive record in friendlies, which has included away wins over Germany and the Netherlands, and their performances at the 2014 FIFA World Cup as reasons to believe.
Photo: Winslow Townson, USA Today
“There’s no reason at all why we can’t win Copa America,” Klinsmann said on Sunday. “We traveled the world the last few years to very difficult friendly games all over Europe and in Mexico, and we came away with wins.”
In Brazil two years ago, Klinsmann’s side helped eliminate a Cristiano Ronaldo-led Portugal and highly rated Ghana, before qualifying with Germany in the World Cup’s “Group of Death.”
“We don’t need to talk up Argentina any bigger than they are,” Klinsmann said.
“Two years ago we had Mr Ronaldo against us in Manaus and we led them 2-1 until the 96th minute,” Klinsmann said of his team’s World Cup group match which finished in a 2-2 draw. “We surprised a lot of people — no one gave us a chance to get out of the group in Brazil. We left Portugal behind, we left Ghana behind. Anything is possible in knockout games. You’re 50-50 with whoever you play against. Dream big — why not? This is about two more games.”
Privately, though, Klinsmann will be attempting to solve the puzzle caused by the suspensions of influential midfielder Jermaine Jones, wide player Alejandro Bedoya and Hamburg SV-bound striker Bobby Wood. All three have played a pivotal role in the US campaign, with Wood providing the speed and thrust in attack which has created the space for veteran Clint Dempsey to thrive, and Jones a towering presence in the heart of midfield.
Although Klinsmann has urged his team to shed their underdog mentality, insisting he wants them to be bold against more heralded opponents, a gung-ho approach against Argentina could be disastrous.
When the relentless US pressing dropped off in the second half against Ecuador in the quarter-final, the South Americans created chance after chance only to be let down by poor finishing. Argentina, who have amassed 14 goals in four games, are unlikely to be as profligate.
Messi, superb in Saturday’s 4-1 quarter-final demolition of Venezuela, in which he scored to join Gabriel Batistuta as Argentina’s record international goalscorer with 54 goals, cautions that facing the hosts on home turf might not be as straightforward as it seems.
“We’re on the right track, but it will be very difficult playing in front of the American crowd. Physically they are a very strong team and they can do a lot of damage if they are allowed to play,” Messi said.
Yet it is hard to see anything other than an Argentina victory, which would leave Gerardo Martino’s side 90 minutes away from ending a 23-year wait for a major title.
Messi and his teammates have suffered agonizing losses in the finals of last year’s Copa America in Chile and the 2014 FIFA World Cup against Germany.
“It is clear that I want to win something with my country and I want to do everything I can to make that happen,” the Barcelona superstar said.
A businessman who received millions of dollars for his work on Tokyo’s successful campaign to host the 2020 Olympic Games has said that he played a key role in securing the support of a former Olympics powerbroker suspected by French prosecutors of taking bribes to help Japan’s bid. Haruyuki Takahashi, a former executive at the advertising agency Dentsu, was paid US$8.2 million by the committee that spearheaded Tokyo’s bid for the 2020 Games, financial records showed. Takahashi said the work included lobbying International Olympic Committee (IOC) members such as Lamine Diack, the ex-Olympics powerbroker, and that he gave Diack gifts, including digital
DECREASED TENSION: The US players’ lawyers said that the soccer federation no longer disputes that the jobs of the women’s and men’s national teams require equal skill Women players suing the US Soccer Federation (USSF) said in in court documents filed on Tuesday that the federation has acknowledged that the jobs of male and female soccer players require equal skill. The language seemed to signal a decrease in tension between the parties after language in documents filed by the federation’s lawyers earlier last month provoked widespread outrage in saying that playing on the men’s national team required a higher level of skill based on speed and strength and carried greater responsibility. The fierce backlash — not only from the women players, but also from sponsors such as Coca-Cola —
BITING THE BULLET: Barcelona’s Lionel Messi said that top players would make contributions so that the club’s employees can collect 100 percent of their salary Three-quarters of Rugby Australia’s staff were temporarily laid off yesterday amid huge financial losses from the sport’s coronavirus-enforced shutdown, while Lionel Messi confirmed on Monday that Barcelona’s players would take a 70 percent pay cut to ensure that the club’s other employees are paid. The cuts to rugby staff were “the toughest decision in the game’s history,” governing body CEO Raelene Castle said. “Although extremely painful, they are necessary to ensure ... we are able to come out the other side of this global crisis, fully operational and ready to throw everything into the rebuild.” The sport has been hit hard by
If British industry succeeds in saving lives during the COVID-19 pandemic, it would in part be thanks to the pioneering role played by Formula One (F1) racing teams in the country. Seven of F1’s 10 teams have joined forces with leading aerospace and engineering firms to ramp up production of ventilators, while Mercedes has also worked with medics and academics to produce an alternative breathing aid. Normally obsessed with improving the performance of cars that race at more than 320kph, the teams are stripping back lifesaving devices and using computer simulation to test whether more simplified models can be mass produced. The seven