KANSAS CITY – A hallmark of Jurgen Klinsmann’s program has been scheduling tough friendlies all along, facing the likes of Brazil, Germany and Italy, often traveling to face the toughies on the road. Is it about to pay off, now that the United States was drawn into a group of pain?
U.S. center back Matt Besler says so:
“I think that was the mindset of why we scheduled hard friendlies, for situations like this,” Besler said Friday after the draw from Brazil. “The year that we’ve had, I feel like the team’s mentality is that we can go play with anyone. Now we’ve got to go prove it.”
Besler, speaking from Sporting Park, where he and other U.S. national teamers were gathered for Friday’s draw, said he chatted briefly with Clint Dempsey before talking to reporters here. The topic: facing Ghana. Again.
“I assume I’ll find out a lot more,” he said.
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What about the travel involved upon arrival in Brazil? It’s quite extensive, as everyone is talking about now. There is extensive travel in Major League Soccer, as well. More than in most leagues around the world, in fact. Does that help the United States just a bit, perhaps?
“We all knew the travel was going to be a topic,” he said. “But it’s not an issue for us. We travel a lot in MLS play, and even in CONCACAF, too. … We see it as an advantage; we’re used to it.”
Gareth Bale doesn’t at all dislike Cristiano Ronaldo — or vice versa — despite what may seem a lukewarm on-field relationship between the two Real Madrid superstars, insists Jonathan Barnett, agent of Bale.
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Instead, Barnett insists that the two men with very different personalities have a healthy relationship, and competition, that pushes each Galactico to be the best player he can be.
Barnett, on Bale’s relationship with Ronaldo — quotes from the Guardian:
“They don’t go out eating every night together, but it’s fine. There’s no hatred there. Gareth is a quiet guy. They’re complete opposites. But I think Gareth can learn a little bit from Ronaldo as well, interacting maybe a little bit. But he wants his own life and he lives it. Gareth is a great footballer, he doesn’t want anything more. He has some very good endorsements but his whole life is to be the best footballer in the world. I don’t think he wants to be the best model in the world or the best underwear seller. That’s not him.”
That’s a hilarious closing quote from Barnett, but he knows exactly how some folks are going to interpret it: “Bale thinks Ronaldo loves himself too much.”
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There’s nothing better for the ultimate success of a team than healthy, friendly competition between teammates who are spectacularly talented as Ronaldo and Bale. The former will only be around to perform at his current level for so much longer, but at what point does the latter officially take the torch and supplant Madrid’s biggest star, and how accepting will he be of passing that proverbial torch?
Is it just me, or does the press really only ever get noteworthy quotes from players during international breaks?
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I suppose it’s not surprising, given Premier League players get away from the mean ole British press, go back to their respective homelands and speak with journalists they’ve likely known since their early playing days, thus feel more comfortable opening up about key issues.
Anyway, today we have Olivier Giroud essentially calling himself out for having lost the starting striker’s job at Arsenal because he’s been outplayed of late by Theo Walcott. As discussed before, this is bad news for Giroud because he’s now falling down the depth chart for France with next summer’s European Championship on the horizon.
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Giroud, on losing his place at Arsenal — quotes from the Guardian:
“At Arsenal, I am in competition with Theo for the striker position. But he is doing well at the moment, so there is no reason to change.
“Whether it was at Tours, Montpellier or Arsenal, I have never experienced a situation like this, I have often played from the start. I need to take positives and to harden myself mentally. It is something new for me.
“I was in [Walcott’s] place in previous seasons at Arsenal. I imagine what he must have been thinking. But I feel that the coach believes in me.”
Giroud goes on to cast into doubt his own confidence, stating in very certain terms he needs “to believe more in [his] abilities.” Giroud’s always come across as a bit of an existentialist, but it’s always strange to hear players publicly call themselves out — particularly their confidence — as if that’s not going to increase the pressure currently weighing down on them.
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The next eight months are going to be monumentally important in Giroud’s career, as the 29-year-old attempts to prove he’s worth keeping around at Arsenal and deserving of a place in the national team squad for next summer’s EUROs, which are to be played in France.