Los Angeles (AFP) – Former United States coach Jurgen Klinsmann believes he would have successfully taken the team to the World Cup had he not been sacked during the qualification campaign.
In an interview with Sports Illustrated, the former Germany striker and coach was adamant that he could have turned around qualifying before he was axed in 2016.
Klinsmann was fired after opening defeats by Mexico and Costa Rica in CONCACAF’s six-team final round of qualifying.
He was subsequently replaced by Bruce Arena, but the team suffered a disastrous defeat to Trinidad & Tobago in their final group game to miss out on Russia.
Klinsmann told Sports Illustrated he is certain the team would have recovered from the opening defeats to book a place in the finals.
“The team was on track. We would have swallowed the early defeats and moved on and get the job done,” Klinsmann said.
The 53-year-old said his side was still in a developmental cycle building towards 2018 when they suffered the defeats that prompted his dismissal.
“You build a new skeleton between World Cups and we hadn’t built the skeleton yet,” Klinsmann said. “When we lost two games, we were still building the skeleton. Sorry we lost two games! Then [the United States Soccer Federation] became emotional. … But they made their decision, so no problem.”
While the American qualifying debacle means the USA will miss the World Cup this year for the first time since 1986, Klinsmann is certain the country possesses enough talent to qualify for the 2022 finals in Qatar and mount a strong campaign.
The key will be finding players capable of joining Christian Pulisic at leading European clubs, Klinsmann said, while admitting it would “not be easy.”
The 1990 World Cup-winning striker also insists he would not have changed his approach to managing the US team. Under Klinsmann the team reached the knockout rounds of the 2014 World Cup after emerging from a “Group of Death” which included Germany, Portugal and Ghana, and also reached the semi-finals of the 2016 Copa America Centenario.
Asked what he would have done differently, he replied: “If I want to get the most out of [the national team], to help it make future steps, if I want them to go to another level as a program and a federation? Then I would do everything the same way.”