USA coach Jurgen Klinsmann warns 'there's no easy path' to Brazil
US coach Jurgen Klinsmann warned the two favourites Mexico and United States will face a difficult fight to reach the 2014 World Cup finals in final-round qualifying that starts Wednesday.
"There's no easy way, not for Mexico, not for United States, not for anybody," the former German international star said. "You have to work hard. You have to get your points. You have to respect every opponent."
The Americans will open at Honduras while Jamaica's Reggae Boyz visit Mexico and Panama will play host to Costa Rica to kick off 2013 Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) qualifying.
The three top teams after 10 round-robin matches will qualify for the finals in Brazil while the fourth-place team will face the Oceania winner for another berth.
"Every World Cup qualifying round is unique and CONCACAF is tricky in its own way," Klinsmann said. "It will challenge you severely. It's all about determination and commitment.
"The way our players have presented themselves in training, it looks like they are ready," added Klinsmann, who guided hosts Germany to the 2006 World Cup semi-finals.
The Americans were pushed to the final match before advancing in last year's semi-final round.
"One thing we learned from the semi-final round is that you have to bring the right mentality to play in the tough games on the road and I'm confident we are ready to do that," Klinsmann said.
"We want to have a sense of urgency right from the start... We're ready to be focused in every one of those 10 games and be sharp and alert. If it goes down to the last game, we'll be prepared to the maximum."
The US lineup features striking duo Tottenham's Clint Dempsey and AZ Alkmaar's Jozy Altidore, Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard and new faces in midfield and defense although there are some veterans also in the mix.
Roma's Michael Bradley has five US goals and 19 caps but none of his fellow midfielders has found the net and six have fewer than 10 caps, while Carlos Bocanegra's 31 caps are 20 more than the other eight US defenders combined.
Honduras comes off a trip to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and features New England Revolution forward Jerry Bengtson and Wigan midfielder Roger Espinoza.
"We have a lot of respect for this team," Klinsmann said. "They have Bengtson, who can always harm an opponent. You have Espinoza in the midfield who has a wonderful touch."
The Americans have a 12-3-3 all-time record against Honduras, but the Catrachos know they need maximum points from every home match.
"The hexagonal is going to be very tight, so the most important thing is to make home advantage count," Honduran defender Victor Bernardez of San Jose Earthquakes said.
"Trying to make history is part of the package. We know what's at stake. We've had some very tough games. That's helping us prepare for what's ahead. We're doing the right things and we're getting stronger."
Manchester United's Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez will spark Mexico against Jamaica, with the Tricolor holding a formidable 17-2 with one drawn record over their opponents.
Hernandez has scored 28 goals in 43 appearances for the Mexicans, who have not lost a qualifier since 2009. But Reggae Boyz coach Theodore Whitmore likes his side's chances of reaching the World Cup for the first time since 1998.
"We can qualify for Brazil. It's within us to do so," he said. "History beckons."
Costa Rica visits Panama chasing a World Cup berth after being edged out by Honduras in 2010, the Ticos missing out by surrendering a goal to the Americans in stoppage time in the final match.
"We all want to go to Brazil, so we work hard every practice to improve," said Panama defender Roy Miller of New York Red Bulls. "It's an important time for everyone. Panama is a tough team. It will be a difficult game."
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