GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala (AP) — Central America or Europe, it doesn’t matter. World Cup qualifiers are tough.
Ask Jurgen Klinsmann, coach of the U.S. team that plays Guatemala in its second CONCACAF group qualifying match Tuesday night.
“It’s a global game. Wherever in the world you want to qualify for the World Cup, you go through different stages and different places,” said Klinsmann, who starred as a player for Germany, winning a world championship, and also coaching his nation to third place in the 2006 tournament. “I’m very happy to be in Guatemala and have that opportunity tomorrow with our team to play here and experience the atmosphere here.
“The players are aware of the difficulties playing in a game like this, but they are also very, very focused and confident to get the points we need in order to get to the next round and to Brazil in 2014.”
The Americans come off a 3-1 home victory over Antigua and Barbuda, probably the weakest team in the group. Guatemala lost 2-1 at Jamaica.
The top two teams from each of three divisions will advance to the CONCACAF finals, with the top three from that round advancing to Brazil 2014.
While the United States was peppering its opponent with shots in Saturday’s opener, its marksmanship was a bit off. That might be a problem against Guatemala, mainly because this is a road game.
“So far I’ve really enjoyed what happens here in CONCACAF, playing all the different teams I hadn’t experienced yet as a coach,” Klinsmann said Monday night. “It’s normal that you adjust and you adapt to where you go.”
Central American opponents traditionally test the United States, particularly Costa Rica and Honduras. But Guatemala has not been so imposing.
Since losing the first four matches of their series, which began in 1977, the Americans are 12-0-5, including 6-0-4 in World Cup qualifiers. In nine matches in Guatemala, the U.S. is 2-4-3 overall, but take away those first four losses, all on the road, and the Americans have done extremely well.
In their past eight matches with Guatemala, the Americans are 6-0-2 and have not allowed a goal while scoring 11.
Their most recent meeting was a 2-0 U.S. victory in 2008 in Commerce City, Colo.
Since beating Antigua and Barbuda, Klinsmann and his players have studied the Guatemalans.
“We certainly watched Guatemala’s last game with Jamaica and other games they’ve played before and we are aware of their strengths, their team and their players and the way they play,” Klinsmann said. “They were a little bit unlucky in Jamaica conceding that first goal.
“At the end of the day, tomorrow night is a completely different game. It’s a new game that starts 0-0.”
Injuries have forced the Americans to adjust their defense, with midfielder Jose Torres moving to the backline in the opener. The main adjustment on offense must be more precise finishing, and the United States should have the players to do so in Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan, Michael Bradley and Herculez Gomez.
“We are here to get a positive result and we’re here to win,” Klinsmann said. “We have a lot of respect for Guatemala and we know they’re a very passionate team. They will give everything they have. It will be a fight, which is normal. It’s for World Cup qualifying points and we’re prepared for it.”