ENSCHEDE, Holland - The US Under-20 Men’s National Team recently advanced to the round of sixteen at the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship. The US finished atop Group D, considered the Group of Death, with seven points, after defeating Argentina and Egypt and drawing with Germany. The US will face Italy on Tuesday, June 21 at 5:30pm local time, which is 11:30 a.m. Eastern. Fans can follow the match live on Fox Soccer Channel or on ussoccer.com’s Matchtracker presented by Phillips Electronics.
ussoccer.com: Today we are talking with head coach Sigi Schmid, and to begin Sigi, could you tell us what your response would have been if someone told you that Jonathan Spector would get injured in the opening match, that you would still manage to win the group, and not even allow a single goal?
Schmid: “Probably that, that was not a very likely scenario. We didn’t want to lose Jonathan that early. Jonathan is a very important part of our defense because of his talking and organization. It shows the depth of this team, and it shows the ability of Nate Sturgis to step up into Jonathan’s role and for us not to miss a beat on our team defensively, and to continue to play good, tough defense and to make it hard on the opponent.”
ussoccer.com: Three shutouts, but only two goals. Is the lack of offense something that concerns you?
Schmid: “If we weren’t creating chances, I’d be more concerned. I thought against Argentina we created some chances, against Germany for the first 75 minutes we created chances, and against Egypt, even though we didn’t play all that well, we still had four or five quality chances. Obviously, I’d rather score more goals. I want our team to score more goals. But if we continue to create chances, and if the goals come in the knockout stages, I’ll be very happy. When you can win 1-0, there’s no reason to win 5-0. Let’s save those four goals for the quarterfinals, and the semis, and everything else.”
ussoccer.com: Since we haven’t let a goal in yet, some people say ‘well, how will they deal with it if they do get behind?’ Is that any kind of concern for you? You have been in that situation before.
Schmid: “I think we’ve been behind before. We played Argentina in Korea and went down 1-0 and came back and we won 2-1. We played Canada in Minnesota and we were down 1-0 and came back to win 2-1. So I think we’ve shown we can do that in the past. I feel good about the character of this team and its ability that if they’re put in that situation, we can come back. But I also think it’s for our good that we try to avoid that situation.”
ussoccer.com: By winning the group, the team gets to stay in Enschede and play their round of sixteen match here. Does not having to travel help while other teams are traveling here to play?
Schmid: “It helps because we’ve been here so long now because we’ve played all three group games here. And in a very tight schedule, playing on Saturday and playing your next game on Tuesday, not having to pack up, travel, move, check in to the hotel, figure out a new training ground, and get familiar with all the new things, it’s definitely made things a lot easier. That’s the advantage that you try to give to teams who finish first in their group. That’s an advantage that we’ve earned and now we need to use that to our best benefit.”
ussoccer.com: Let’s talk a little bit about Italy. They lost their first two games in their group and didn’t look like they would qualify, but they won their final game against Canada with enough goals to get through. Have you seen Italy? Have you gotten a chance to look at them at all?
Schmid: “We’ve seen Italy on tape. We have tapes of their games. John Harkes, whose main function here is as our scout, has seen them play live because we knew that was one of the groups we might run into. So, John has a good idea about them. And obviously, seeing them on the tape is very helpful to us and it doesn’t matter whether you’re a third place team or a first place team when you’re a country like Italy. There’s a lot of tradition, you have a good base of players. And they played some good teams in their group too, with Colombia probably being one of the favorites in this tournament. They did what they needed and what they had to do in the last game and that shows they’re a team of character.”
ussoccer.com: What are your impressions of Italy?
Schmid: “Italy has a big center forward (Graziano Pelle) who they try to target up front who’s good with his back to the goal and decent in the air. He had two goals against Canada. They’ve got a number of midfielders who are very busy and active. Number 7 (Marino Defendi) comes off the forward line a little bit, so he’s really a second forward or a very attacking midfielder. Number 8 (Lorenzo Carotti) is very active for them in midfield. Number 11 (Daniele Galloppa) is also a solid player. They play with one holding midfielder. So, a little bit like Argentina, with the four in the back and the one holding midfielder, we’ve really got to make life miserable for that holding midfielder. That’s the key for our success. We’ve got to make them defend us. Against Canada, they were able to get four goals because Canada didn’t make them defend enough.”
ussoccer.com: Finally, a lot of people are talking about the team’s path to a possible final and saying how favorable this half of the draw is (without Spain, Colombia, and Argentina). Is that something you think about? Or do you just look at the first game and get that done?
Schmid: “We’ve got to look at the first game. We’ve got to beat Italy. And once we do that, we’ve got to look at the next opponent, either Morocco or Japan, and then we’ve got to beat them. And then we look at the next opponent. Is one side of the draw easier than the other? I really don’t know. It’s like I said going into the tournament, we play better against good teams. There are enough good teams on our side. I think Holland is on our side of the draw as well. They are probably a pretty formidable team down the line. We just want to take it one game at a time. And we know we need to win tomorrow in order to play again on Friday. And we want to win Friday so we can play again next week.”
ussoccer.com: Thanks again for joining us today, Sigi. And as a reminder to all our fans, you can follow the US Under-20 Men’s National Team as they take on Italy this Tuesday, June 21 live on Fox Soccer Channel at 11:30 a.m. Eastern, or on ussoccer.com’s Matchtracker presented by Phillips Electronics.
- ussoccer.com -