Author: Nick Webster

US national football team head coach, Ge

Jurgen Klinsmann is a winner plain and simple


The last few days before last night’s epic win over Costa Rica in Denver have felt like a referendum of sorts on coach, Jurgen Klinsmann.

Of course three points and 2nd place in the ‘Hex’ have shut the detractors up for now however I’m sure they’ll be back in force should the team lose to Mexico on Tuesday. Let’s not forget the fact that the Americans have never won a world cup qualifier at the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City though but that’s beside the point.

My beef is why are critics and fans moaning about Klinsmann, he’s the best thing that’s ever happened to US Soccer hands down. The man is a born winner, who has been there, done that and worn the t-shirt all over the world.

Perhaps you haven’t seen his resume. It’s impressive!

At the club level he played in Germany, France, England and Italy winning multiple trophies. At the international level he represented his country 108 times winning the World Cup in 1990 and the European Championships in 1996 as captain. As a coach he took Germany to the semi-finals of the World Cup in 2006 playing an expansive brand of football that the German national team still plays to this day. His only failure, a short spell at Bayern Munich, a club with a notoriously short fuse where many have failed before him.

What Americans have to realize is that Klinsmann has two short-term goals and neither of them have anything to do with style, making friends or being liked.

1. Qualify for the World Cup finals
2. Take the USMNT further than they’ve ever been before.

Nothing else matters in the next eighteen months. So to those of you who have got your knickers in a twist about what he is and isn’t doing with the national team, cool your jets and let him do the job he was hired to do. If he fails, then you can come out all guns blazing.

Here’s a poll that’ll make it simple for you to make a clear headed choice. I already know the winner!

Spain are in big trouble

Spain celebrates

A World Cup finals without the defending champions would be a severely diminished competition however that is becoming an increasing possibility after Spain were stunned at home by Finland.

Teemu Pukki’s late equalizer cancelling out a Sergio Ramos strike has put the defending and two-time European champions in a decidedly awkward situation. They now trail long time rivals France by two points and have to visit Paris on Tuesday. The knowledge that anything but a win will probably see them finish second in Group I, makes this match the most pressurized situation they’ve experienced since the final of Euro 2012.

Spain coach, Vicente del Bosque cannot be relishing the prospect of a two-legged shoot out in November to qualify for Brazil 2014.

Can you imagine that, the best national team we’ve ever been privileged to watch in that kind of lottery. The list of dangerous, exceptional and talented countries who may finish second in their respective UEFA qualifying groups is a murderers row.

Croatia, Belgium, Bulgaria, Sweden, Hungary, Romania, Portugal, Greece and England could all be potential opponents to the World Champions should the unthinkable happen.

FIFA made a bold statement in 2002 when they decided that the champion should have to participate in the qualification process instead of automatically moving to the finals as had been the case since the inception of the tournament back in 1930 however I don;t think in the corridors of FIFA HQ in Zurich they ever imagined Spain not playing next summer.

England made U.S. goalkeepers great

Brad Guzan

Born in the USA and made great in the high-octane atmosphere of the English game.

It began with Kasey Keller who dared tread where no one had gone before when he moved across the pond to the east end of London and the hostile environment of Millwall in 1992. With the door pushed open, Brad Friedel, was next to take the plunge signing for Liverpool in 1997 before really establishing himself with Blackburn Rovers. Tim Howard literally smashed the door off its hinges when he walked through the doors of Old Trafford and Manchester United in 2003 and now Brad Guzan follows that lineage at Aston Villa where he has patiently waited for the opportunity to shine.

The English game is based on power and physicality and American goalkeepers have simply thrived. It’s as though the steady diet of crosses, long balls and rampaging center forwards is meat and drink for the Yanks. It has certainly benefited the USMNT who have relied on English based goalkeepers for the last four World Cups. Tony Meola was the last home based keeper during USA WC’94.

Every match in England matters and the scrutiny from the press, fans, opponents is intense. You can never take a day off and the by-product of this, is excellence and the performances of these four men bare that out.

It has been said that Americans excel`in this position due to the nature of other US sports that require a high degree of eye-hand coordination. Throwball (NFL), baseball and basketball are played and viewed on TV from such a young age that the sports are learnt almost by osmosis.

Whatever the secret is, American goalkeepers are consistently the most wanted stateside players from football clubs around the world.

Rooney’s race to 50

Soccer Euro 2012 England Ukraine
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Former Manchester United and England legend, Bobby Charlton has enjoyed his view from atop the England scoring charts for 43 years now. The World Cup winner scored 49 times in 106 appearances and no one bar, Gary Lineker, who was sensationally substituted with England needing a goal in the ’92 Euros stuck on 48 has come close since.

Michael Owen, who has recently made the news after announcing he is retiring at the end of the season was pegged to be the all-time scorer at one point but injuries along with a loss of form saw him stuck on 40 goals in 89 appearances, which leaves the door wide open for Wayne Rooney.

Rooney scored number 34 earlier today against San Marino and will probably be extremely disappointed that he didn’t fill his boots more against the minnows who gave up goals to seven different players in their 8-0 loss.

The United forward who some feel could be in decline at the tender age of 27 was once England’s youngest goal scorer and even if the years and miles have taken a toll, he is still the talisman that the Three Lions look for come tournament time.

If he remains fit and open to selection while continuing to score at his present rate, look for Rooney to overtake Charlton around the time of the next European Championships to be hosted in France in 2016.

This would be an entirely appropriate stage for him to break the record as it was at Euro 2004 in Portugal that he truly announced his presence to the world with performances of pace, power and guile. In 2016 he will be 30 years old and according to conventional wisdom, at the peak of his powers as a footballer.

Bobby Charlton is a name that is treated with reverence within the English game, Wayne Rooney should join him in football royalty as he’s only 16 goals away. He must be wishing he could play San Marino every week.

What was the point of that?

San Marino v England - FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifier

England duly completed their expected slaughtering of San Marino demolishing the tiny nation to the tune of eight but really what was the point of this whole worthless exercise other than to pad statistics and give the Three Lions their biggest victory since 1993 when they demolished…San Marino.

As much as they try San Marino are not at the level to play international football, so why UEFA and FIFA insist on this farce is beyond me. The men in power must come to the realization that this is hindering the sport, not helping it.

A far more sensible solution would be for countries ranked say outside the top 100 to have their own qualifying process where they play other countries of equal strength. The winner of that particular round would then have earned the right to mix it up with the big boys.

The likes of Liechtenstein, Andorra, San Marino are never going be able to compete with Europe’s elite. The same can be said for the tiny nations that participate in CONCACAF, OCEANIA and CAF. The fact that these regions have to also indulge FIFA in this sham is a nonsense. The only region that can honestly say that they have a legitimate qualifying process is COMNEBOL which pits the 10 nations of South America together in something that actually resembles a true qualifying process.

For the World Cup, European Championships, for that matter any competition to be meaningful in any way there has to be some semblance of fairness. I’m not saying every team should have the chance to win but to lose almost every single time you step on the field makes a mockery of FIFA’s slogan, For the Game. For the World.