by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (November 14th 2014)
Fresh from their World Cup heroics Colombia and the USA meet in a friendly at Fulhamʼs Craven Cottage tonight. Jürgen Klinsmann has a new look squad as veteran keeper Tim Howard is taking a break from international football. Aston Villaʼs Brad Guzan will provide the last line of defence. “You want to test yourself against the best,” he said of the prospect of facing Real Madrid star James Rodríguez and Fiorentinaʼs Juan Guillermo Cuadrado.
Yesterday, ticket sales reached 23500, which equalled the record for an international at Craven Cottage. Obviously itʼs a very traditional and very special place”, Klinsmann said of the ground. “That we get the opportunity to play a friendly here means a lot to us”.
Klinsmann had to make changes since July. “Weʼre looking forward to an exciting match to a game that gives us a very good benchmark against a team that is in the top five in the world with outstanding players”, he said. “We have a good group of guys here. They are eager to show what they have”.
Klinsmann said that the long-term vision was 2018 and that they were looking forward to playing José Pekermanʼs team. “For us, itʼs huge to play those type of games outside of our comfort zone away from the United States in order to grow and to learn, especially for the younger players you know to face all these top players that Colombiaʼs has”.
He was impressed with los Cafeteros. “I wouldnʼt say it was a surprise, because prior to the World Cup when you talked about all the nations that qualified there a lot of people mentioned Chile, a lot people mentioned Colombia, how good their individuals, the quality that they have – one of their secret teams maybe going far in the tournament – so it was exciting to see that Colombian team, the way they played, the energy they had, you how they performed, so they deserved really the biggest compliment for that and especially José Pekerman for his work there”.
He expects to be a wiser man about his team after Friday night. “For us … itʼs very important that we have these games where we have to figure out to solve things on the field in a one match situation, because our next biggest learning curve is once we get out hopefully of the group again, how we actually advance in the knock-out system”, Klinsmann said.
Klinsmann believes that such matches are essential if the USA is to become a top team. “This is our learning curve, to learn in one game at a time to go further and further and further to develop that mentality – that mindset – to do that, so thatʼs why we badly need those games against the best teams that we can find to give us that opportunity to play them”, he said. “No matter where in the world, weʼre going to go there and weʼre going to play those games”.
He believes that his team will benefit from pitting their skills against such a good team and that his youngsters have to be tested against the best. “You can see their progress and thatʼs what we want to experience”, Klinsmann said of the young players. “We want them to grow confident … We want to do well against a very, very good Colombian side
and has great respect for his opposite number José Pekerman, dating back to the World Cup in 2006. “Iʼm a big admirer of José Pekerman”, Klinsmann said. “A wonderful person that I played against for Germany in the World Cup of 2006 and I visited him once in México. What he built there is exceptional. Itʼs fantastic to see, so this is what we need. We need those benchmarks now and weʼre eager to give them a real fight.
Brad Guzan will play tonight. “Itʼs important to play these competitive games, because they help set benchmarks of where we are as a team, as individuals and how much we continue to grow”, he said. “Ultimately the goal is four years – the World Cup – we have a lot of stepping stones before that, but the goal is 2018. Thatʼs going to be a special time. To be successful in big tournaments you have to play against the best teams in the world. You use these games to hopefully prepare for the bigger stage and ultimately the World Cup”.
Guzan knows that he will face an impressoive set of strikers and team with James Rodríguez pulling the strings. He is unfazed. “Youʼre always expecting to play against the best players in the world, because itʼs an opportunity to test yourself, so nothing changes for me in that aspect” ,he said.
He echoes Klinsmannʼs beliefs. “As a team, itʼs always a challenge and especially we know itʼs going to be a good Colombia team from top to bottom, so for us itʼs going to be an important night and these are the games you want to be a part of”, Guzan said. “You want to test yourself against the best players, against the best teams. These are the exciting matches that you want to be a part of”.