Klinsmann: U.S. gave everything they had, “made their country proud”

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If you were expecting a heartbroken Jurgen Klinsmann to bemoan his team’s fortunes, you haven’t been following the United States Men’s National Team’s head coach. Though his normal confidence and positivity was notably muted when he faced the media after today’s 2-1 loss to Belgium, the poise and perspective the former World Cup-winning player has leveraged during this time with the U.S. was ever-present as he discussed Tuesday’s close call.

Eight years after guiding Germany to the semifinals, Klinsmann has no regret about his second elimination from a World Cup.

“I think we gave everything to the fans, to the crowd,” Klinsmann explained, asked to give his general thoughts on the match. “[It was] a real drama, a thriller. We had enough possibilities at the end or even to put it away earlier …

“It was a game that went to the extreme. [The player] gave everything that they had. They made their country proud.”

[ MORE: Player Ratings: How US fared in brave defeat ]
[ MORE: Three things we learned from US v Belgium ]

That pride could be seen in enthusiasm fans showed in viewing parties across the country, with a newly full Solder Field in Chicago highlighting the impact the team has had at home.

It’s a pride extends to the team’s coach, who expressed his gratitude to his squad after their elimination.

“All of the players went beyond their capabilities,” Klinsmann said, the U.S. eliminated in extra time of the Round of 16 for the second straight World Cup. “I told them in the locker room, I’m very proud of them …”

“We’ve done a lot of work. We would have liked to continue a little longer in this tournament, but that’s not doable. We had a chance to put them away, but Belgium and their chances, too.”

That they even had those chances meant the U.S. exceeded expectations, with the team widely picked to be eliminated after the group stage. But for Klinsmann, who also acts as technical director for U.S. soccer, the importance of the World Cup’s results extend beyond Brazil.

“What you hope is that your team really takes [the World Cup] experience and understand now what this level means,” Klinsmann said, describing the progress his team has made, “what the intensity means, what the pace means, and the demands … It’s not only going to training and playing a game on the weekend. It’s about lifestyle. So much goes into this.”

The one failing Klinsmann’s noted was his team’s mentality, with the U.S. boss seeing his team as too deferential to Germany and Belgium.

“There’s still the mental approach,” Klinsmann cited. “We learn more and more. We’re kind of in that process, [trying] to take our game to the opponent, no matter what their name is, [but] we wait too long.

“I think there’s still a little bit too much respect on our end. When it comes to the big stage, why not play them eye to eye? This is something we have to go through. I don’t know how many years it will take.”

Despite his teams’ reticence, Klinsmann still wants his players to be more aggressive.

“I’m screaming my lungs off on the sidelines, [trying] to push them higher up the field. This is something they have to get out of their minds. Even against talented teams, [we have] to play them higher and higher up.”

Now at the end of the his first cycle as coach, Klinsmann remains committed to being the man who’ll change that mentality. Asked if he will be coaching the team at Russia 2018, the 49-year-old gave a confirming “I think so” before moving back to his team’s performance.

WATCH: Video Assistant calls back Griezmann goal

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France and Spain used the Video Assistant Referee program on Tuesday in a friendly, and the French likely rue that decision.

Antoine Griezmann had an incorrectly allowed goal reverse for offside, while Gerard Deulofeu saw an initially ruled offside goal allowed upon review in Spain’s 2-0 win over France.

[ MORE: Bolivia stuns Messi-less Argentina ]

Here’s an example, as Griezmann’s barely offside goal was overturned in less than a minute (Both calls took less than a minute to decide):

At the risk of sounding like a caveman, I really don’t like these razor thin offside calls being subject to review.

When you consider the improbability of timing the moment of contact with the ball — how many times have you seen a freeze frame conveniently used to make a case? — it just seems to mess with the spirit of sport.

What do you think?

Bolivia stuns Messi-less Argentina in World Cup qualifying

AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano
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Argentina took steps backward Tuesday in its pursuit of a 2018 World Cup berth, on and off the field.

It started as Lionel Messi was suspended four matches for verbally abusing a referee in Argentina’s Friday win over Chile.

Then La Albiceleste made another move in reverse with a shocking 2-0 loss to Bolivia in La Paz. Argentina started Sergio Aguero, Paulo Dybala, and Ezequiel Lavezzi on the bench in what many presumed to be an easy win.

[ MORE: Three keys for USA v Panama ] 

Juan Carlos Arce and Marcelo Martins scored as ninth-place La Verde picked up its third win of qualifying with a win over powerful Argentina.

The bad news kept coming for Argentina (and Everton), as Ramiro Funes Mori left the match in the 36th minute with injury.

Bolivia will finish the international break at least 10 points back of the playoff spot, while Argentina could finish as low as that fifth-place spot.

STREAM: CONCACAF tripleheader concludes with USMNT

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CONCACAF’s bottom three sides in the Hex standings look to make the table incredibly tight as World Cup qualifying finds three-straight matches on the docket beginning at 5 p.m. EDT.

Honduras vs. Costa Rica

Los Catrachos were creamed 6-0 by the U.S. on Friday, and return home hoping a wounded Costa Rica remains vulnerable. Honduras is dead last on goal differential, but three points would be huge and put them level with Los Ticos. Costa Rica won its first two matches before falling to Mexico on Friday.

Trinidad and Tobago vs. Mexico

El Tri has two wins and a draw from their first three Hex matches, and will be without Rafa Marquez on Tuesday. A win guarantees Mexico the top spot heading into the next round of matches in June. The Soca Warriors surprised some with their 1-0 win over visiting Panama on Tuesday. Mexico is a different class.

Panama vs. USMNT

Despite its miserable start, the U.S. can find itself as high as second with a win and help from Honduras. The injuries remain plenty for the Yanks, who are without Fabian Johnson, Bobby Wood, Sebastian Lletget, and John Brooks. Panama has allowed just a single goal through three Hex matches, but also has only managed one.

AFC and Oceania wrap: Iran, New Zealand take next steps

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With CONMEBOL and CONCACAF serving as the main course later Tuesday, the morning and afternoon saw big World Cup qualifiers on the other side of the world.

[ MORE: Three keys for USA v Panama ] 

Asian qualifying

Iran is on the verge of qualification for Russia 2018 after Persepolis star Mehdi Taremi bagged his ninth international goal in a 1-0 home win over China.

Iran leads Group A by four points, but second-place South Korea and third-place Uzbekistan kept pace with 1-0 home wins of their own. Hong Jeong-ho scored in South Korea’s win over Syria, while Odil Ahmendov’s 65th minute free kick was enough to push Uzbekistan past Qatar.

The goalkeeping was… less than ideal.

Over in Group B, shutouts were the name of the game for high-powered hosts as well.

Japan stayed atop the group with a 4-0 win over Thailand, as a trio of players with Premier League experience — Maya Yoshida, Shinji Kagawa, and Shinji Okazaki — joined Gent’s Yuya Kubo on the scoreboard.

Saudi Arabia is level with Japan on points thanks to Yahya Al-Shehri’s post-halftime goal in a 1-0 win over Iraq, while Australia saw off United Arab Emirates thanks to goals from Burton Albion’s Jackson Irvine and Ingolstadt’s Mathew Leckie.

That leaves Australia three points behind Saudi Arabia and Japan in the race for two of three automatic spots. The Socceroos hosts the Green Falcons in June before an August trip to Saitama in a pair of matches which will decide who goes directly to Russia and who has to win a pair of playoffs: One against the Group A’s third-place team and another against CONCACAF’s fourth place side.

Oceania qualifying

New Zealand took the next step in collecting Oceania’s berth in the intercontinental playoff with a 2-0 win over Fiji in Wellington. PEC Zwolle winger Ryan Thomas bagged a brace for the All Whites.

New Zealand will next face either Tahiti, Solomon Islands, or Papua New Guinea over two legs in late August and early September for the right to battle the fifth place CONMEBOL team for a World Cup berth. That could be Ecuador, Chile, Paraguay, or even Colombia.

Tahiti hosts Papua New Guinea at 1 a.m. EDT Wednesday, and will be the odds-on favorite to face New Zealand with a win.