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US faces benchmark battle with Brazil
Published : 29 May 2012 21:47:12
Brazil's formidable playmakers will face the United States in a Wednesday football friendly that will show the Americans how far they have progressed in 10 months since Jurgen Klinsmann became coach.
"We want to improve all the elements of what we're working on since we started and see where we are against one of the best teams in the world," Klinsmann said on Tuesday.
"This is a big stepping stone for us. We still have a ways to go. But we are making progress."
The Americans ripped visiting Scotland 5-1 on Saturday and also play Sunday at Canada ahead of their first qualifying matches for the 2014 Brazil World Cup on June 8 at Tampa against Antigua and Barbuda and June 12 at Guatemala.
"It's an exciting benchmark we face," Klinsmann said. "It will tell us a lot about where we are heading into World Cup qualifiers."
Five-time World Cup champion Brazil, 15-1 all-time against the US squad, are testing some talent for the London Olympics as they build toward a home-soil World Cup.
Brazilians have never won an Olympic crown but that does not dim the demands of the football-mad nation on coach Mano Menezes, a fact Klinsmann knows well from his days as player, coach and World Cup organizer in Germany.
"The people expect from him results all the time," Klinsmann said. "People expect him to come away from the Olympics with the gold medal. They not only want to win the World Cup. They want to win it in style.
"We can't get it any more difficult in a certain way. But this is what we need. We need the games that are difficult to see how far we can take it."
Klinsmann said the Brazilians face a challenge of their own, improving defensively to match the success of reigning World Cup champion Spain.
"They have to realize in the last couple years they have missed the train. Spain dictates the style in soccer," Klinsmann said.
"Mano now has the challenge to integrate those missing pieces and he's trying to do that. It is a very difficult task.
Brazil will add defender David Luiz from Champions League winner Chelsea and Santos striker Neymar, who leads a young Brazil roster with eight goals, to the Selecao lineup that defeated Denmark 3-1 on Saturday in Germany.
"We are making strong efforts in speed and tactics as we make final preparations to face the United States," Brazil captain Luiz said.
Powerful Porto attacker Hulk, a contender to play at the London Olympics as an over-age player, scored twice in the victory at Hamburg.
"They set the tone. They have wonderful players," Klinsmann said. "The question is how much can we take to them, in terms of tactics, closing them down, causing them some trouble, making the spaces tight.
"They go-high tempo from the first minute. They love to be creative. Once they have to defend and you create a couple things, they have a couple weaknesses and maybe we can take advantage of them."
A young Brazil side also includes Sao Paulo midfielder Lucas, AC Milan defender Thiago Silva and goalkeeper Jefferson, who has three shutouts in four national team apparances.
"It'll be wide open," US goalkeeper Tim Howard said. "They like to dominate possesion but we will try to do a few things to put the game in situations we like.
"One of the keys we've found and had a little success with is exploiting their strength -- we counter their counter. You have to be disciplined against a team that tries to score on the breaks. If we have that as our base, I think we'll perform really well."
Brazil edged the US team 3-2 in the final of the 2009 Confederations Cup in South Africa, a loss that still stings the Americans but will carry little weight, Everton's Howard said.
"It still hurts to be so close to winning in a major final but it really doesn't play on this game," he said.
Jozy Altidore, a late release from AZ Alkmaar, and Fulham striker Clint Dempsey, fresh off a groin injury, are questionable for the match because they are behind in training with the squad.
Brazil won the most recent match against the Americans 2-0 in 2010 at East Rutherford, New Jersey. The only US win was a 1-0 triumph in 1998 at Los Angeles.