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Mexico’s quinto partido curse isn’t particularly ‘cursey’

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Far be it from me to defend Mexico, but let’s talk about this fifth round “quinto partido” curse for a minute.

And it really shouldn’t take much longer.

[ RECAP: Brazil 2-0 Mexico ]

There’s obviously no denying that Mexico continues to lose in the Round of 16, and that 2002 was an absolute nightmare.

For them. Let’s be clear: It was pretty much the best day in American soccer history.

But if anything, look at the wonderful below graphic assembled by our beautiful NBC Sports Soccer crew.

Mexico has lost to better teams more times than not, and their only crime of this World Cup, one in which they beat Germany, is that they didn’t win the group and play Switzerland instead of Brazil.

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But that Dos a Cero aside, look at the teams that knocked them out and the margins. Mexico scored in the majority of the contests. And they mostly lost to giants.

The curse scales runs from level 1 (no shame) to level 10 (Come on, Mexico).

1994: A team largely devoid of superstars came up against Hristo Stoichkov and Bulgaria. Both teams scored inside of 20 minutes, and Mexico blew it in penalties. Bulgaria, for what it’s worth, then took eventual finalists Roberto Baggio and Italy to the wire in a 2-1 quarterfinal lost. Curse level: 6

1998: This one feels a bit curselike, but only on account of how the match played out. A Luis Hernandez goal put El Tri ahead just after halftime. But Germany, led by Jurgen Klinsmann, scored in the 74th and 86h (Oliver Bierhoff) to win it. Those are a pair of German legends on a team with fellow legends Lothar Matthaus and Andreas Moller. Curse level: 2

2002: Dos A Cero. -clap-clap-clapclapclap- Dos A Cero. -clap-clap-clapclapclap- Curse level: 100

2006: Given a group with Iran, Angola, and Portugal, El Tri had four points before losing to favorites Portugal in the finale. That led to Argentina, who had emerged unscathed from a group with Serbia, the Netherlands, and the Ivory Coast. Rafa Marquez and Hernan Crespo traded goals inside of 10 minutes, and extra time saw a 19-year-old Lionel Messi touch the ball twice in the build-up to this outlandish 98th minute Maxi Rodriguez goal. Curse level: 1

2010: Hopes were high thanks to an upset of chaotic France, but Mexico again drew an Argentina side that went 3-0 despite the absence of a single Messi group stage goal. He didn’t score in the Round of 16 either, but losing to two goals from Carlos Tevez and a Gonzalo Higuain goal shows just how loaded the Argentine contingent was in South Africa. Curse level: 2

2014: El Tri was feeling great under Miguel Herrera, as Piojo oversaw wins over Croatia and Cameroon along with an impressive draw with hosts Brazil. Tiebreakers meant a meeting with eventual semifinalists Netherlands, and Giovani dos Santos scored to give Mexico a 48th minute lead. This one, however, carries a bit of curse for how it ended; Wesley Sneijder scored in the 88th minute before Klaas-Jan Huntelaar converted a penalty won… well… controversially by some clown Arjen Robben. #NoEraPenal. Curse level: 8

Which brings us to 2018: Is losing to a tournament favorite in any way considered a curse? No. Not at all. Is losing to the third-best player in the world while he dives around like the worst example of a soccer stereotype cursey enough to go past curse level zero? Sure, but you did step on the dude’s leg with an immense amount of cameras around. If Casemiro did the same to Javier Hernandez, the little pea would still be rolling on the ground as you read this. Curse level: 1

Klinsmann: USMNT could have made semifinals in Russia

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In an alternate universe, the U.S. Men’s National Team not only qualifies for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, but advances to the semifinals.

This is the universe that’s occupied by former USMNT boss Jurgen Klinsmann. In a pair of interviews with Yahoo Sports and Sports Illustrated that were posted this week, Klinsmann stated he could see the U.S. making a semifinal in either Russia or the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

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“I realistically saw a group growing into the World Cup 2018 that could go into a semifinal,” Klinsmann said.

Klinsmann added later in the interview, “It was so valuable to play Copa America because it gave the players a sense of where they were, that they can beat South American opponents, good teams like Paraguay, Ecuador,” he said. “I think it was really huge for that group of players.”

Obviously this is bonkers on so many levels. The U.S. were on a downward spiral following the 2014 World Cup and the horrendous defeats to Mexico and Costa Rica back to back to open up the Hex were the last straw.

Due to the “lost generation” of players, Klinsmann and his successor Bruce Arena had to over rely on aging stars like Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley as well as young players like Christian Pulisic, who at the time was just 18-years old and was too young to put the hopes and dreams of a nation on his shoulders.

It’s easy for Klinsmann to go on a redemption tour a month out of the World Cup and claim what could have been, and perhaps it’s not necessarily his fault that the likes of Bobby Wood, Brek Shea, Gyasi Zardes, Matt Hedges and many others never developed into top-level players like Dempsey and Bradley. But while it’s likely the U.S. would have qualified, the World Cup squad would have to look a lot younger than the qualifying squad – Arena admitted as much last year.

And it’s unlikely such a young squad could have made a run to the semifinals.

Klinsmann to be World Cup TV pundit

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Some will say he should be coaching the U.S. national team in Russia this summer, but Jurgen Klinsmann will instead be a pundit on the 2018 World Cup for the BBC in England.

The BBC announced on Tuesday that Klinsmann will be alongside the likes of Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba, Alan Shearer, Pablo Zabaleta and Rio Ferdinand to give his analysis on the tournament, one he may way feel he should be at as a coach had things worked out differently 18 months ago.

Klinsmann, 53, was fired by the U.S. men’s national team after losing the opening two games of the final round of CONCACAF qualifying against Mexico and Costa Rica.

By now we all know, of course, that Klinsmann’s successor, Bruce Arena, wasn’t able to salvage a slow start to the Hexagonal round of qualifying as the USMNT lost at Trinidad & Tobago in their final qualifier to not make the World Cup for the first time since 1986.

Klinsmann has largely been a bystander since the USA’s World Cup debacle, appearing here and there at coaching seminars or spotted watching his son Jonathan, a goalkeeper with Hertha Berlin and the U.S. youth teams, play.

The German legend was in charge of the USMNT for five years from 2011-16 and led the Stars and Stripes to the Round of 16 at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Klinsmann’s insight into not only the teams at the tournament but also what happened with the USMNT will be intriguing, especially as he could be more relaxed on the subject of the U.S. considering he will be talking to a UK audience.

This will also be a great chance for Klinsmann to put himself back in the shop window as the managerial merry-go-round swings into overdrive following a World Cup tournament…

Still, there will be a nagging feeling among most USMNT fans that had Klinsmann not been fired back in November 2016 and trusted to get the U.S. back on track, they’d be cheering on their team this summer at the World Cup instead of twiddling their thumbs and being somewhat of a World Cup third wheel.

Klinsmann: ‘I’m sure I’ll come back’ to coaching

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Jurgen Klinsmann hinted that he could return to full-time coaching after the 2018 World Cup.

Klinsmann appears to be enjoying life as a full-time soccer dad after his dismissal from U.S. Soccer in November 2016, having taken home a portion of a $6.2 million buyout from U.S. Soccer for he and his staff. Speaking to Socrates Magazine in Germany, Klinsmann gave his thoughts on the Bundesliga, the German National Team, and whether he’d be back in the hot seat one day.

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“I’m sure I’ll come back,” Klinsmann said. “Right now I’m having a nice break, I enjoy it. I do not know when I’ll take on a coaching job again. I’m looking forward to the World Cup in Russia and then I’ll be back in action.”

Klinsmann has been linked with a number of jobs over the past few years, even before he was fired as U.S. Men’s National Team coach, including with Everton, Sunderland, and Club Tijuana in Liga MX. But instead, Klinsmann has remained in the stands, cheering on his son Jonathan at the 2017 Under-20 World Cup along with the rest of the U.S. parents in their section.

Following the disastrous start of World Cup qualifying and the fact that Klinsmann never took the U.S. to the level he promised, it is hard to see where he will go next, unless it’s a lower level, with lower expectations. Based on his work with the USMNT and Bayern Munich, he has shown that he struggles tactically and is mainly a man-motivator, which is just one part of the coaching package.

The 53-year-old former German coach and player also had a bit of a warning to the Bundesliga, after a particularly tough season in Europe. Three Bundesliga teams (Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig) made the UEFA Champions League, but both Dortmund and Leipzig finished third in their groups, dropping down to the Europa League. FC Koln, Hoffenheim and Hertha Berlin all failed to advance to the knockout stages in the Europa League as well.

“The recent development at the European level is not a good sign, it is important that everyone is aware that success is lacking,” Klinsmann said. “Recently, you have lost too much ground.

“It’s a very critical moment. There is a certain amount of satisfaction after winning the World Cup in Brazil and the Bundesliga clubs having done very well in the Champions League.”

Geoff Cameron, Bruce Arena with dueling USMNT comments

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While Stoke City was sorting out who’d be coming to town on transfer Deadline Day, one of its players was on the offensive regarding the most infamous night in his national team’s history.

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Geoff Cameron spared no blushes in a feature piece by the New York Time’s Marc Stein that was released Wednesday and details his career and the United States men’s national team’s dismissal from World Cup qualifying with the accomplished 32-year-old on the bench.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that, if Jurgen Klinsmann was still our head coach, we would have qualified for the World Cup. … I’m convinced if they would have kept Jurgen and not done such a drastic change, I think we would have qualified. I know we would have qualified. Instead we’ve gone backward.”

(Me, too, Geoff. Me, too, but that’s also because a coach and players would have to almost purposely screw up the Hex to miss out. Bruce Arena sure played his part).

Cameron said Arena told him before the United States’ last two matches of the Hex that he would not be starting the matches because of fitness concerns. Cameron was perplexed; He had just played 90 minutes for Stoke in the Premier League.

“But I would have more respect for a coach to say: ‘You know what, Geoff? I don’t fancy you today. I think this is a better lineup.’ I’d say: ‘O.K., no problem, you told me the truth.’ But if you tell me I’m not fit enough, that’s like an insult to me as a professional.”

Stein, being the fine reporter that he is, got Arena’s response to Cameron’s shots. Arena continued to display that he is not good at the quotes and stuff.

“Could Geoff have been in the starting lineup that day? Yes. But the problem with Geoff throughout 2017, at club and national-team level, was inconsistency and some injuries. … Geoff started five games starting in November 2016 through October 2017. Our record was 1-3-1 — that plays a role. I don’t think 2017 was that impressive of a performance for the player. When the stars and the moon and the sun are aligned properly, Geoff is a very good player. They don’t all align properly all the time.”

That’s a striking bit of ego, even for Arena. The “stars and moon and sun” line is a stunning bit of disrespect for a 55-times capped player with 163 Premier League matches under his belt.

More importantly, it’s wrong. The Yanks won two (Honduras home and T&T), drew two (Honduras and Mexico away), and lost to Costa Rica. That’s one loss in five. And going with the 1-3-1 when Arena’s entire career has been spent in a league that puts losses second seems worse (though we may be reading too far into it).