By Samindra Kunti – Bury, United Kingdom – Following Wednesday’s match between the Qatar and USA Under-23 national teams at Gigg Lane Stadium in Bury, we spoke with the head coach of the American side, Andreas Herzog.
The former Austria and Werder Bremen legend felt optimistic about his side’s chances of qualifying to the Olympic Games in Rio, and was also impressed by how the young Annabi side developed since the teams last met in May during the Toulon Tournament.
The USA defeated Qatar 2-0. Your views on the match?
Overall, the performance was good from us. We were lacking the power and desire to score in the final third, in particular in the first 60 minutes. We missed a couple of key players up front, but to win the last game before the Olympic qualification starts is important. We lost against England last week and it was great for us to win. Honestly, you have to give Qatar credit for doing a great job defensively and they had some scoring opportunities. I am happy that we won this game.
How did the game compare with the Toulon match against Qatar?
Toulon was different, because it was our fourth game in seven days. We were ready to play, but I think Qatar were also better. They gave us a hard time, in the second half we were happy to score the first goal and, like in every game, it’s important to score the first goal.
You have played Qatar twice this year, how are they developing?
I think they did very well and they are technically gifted. Maybe they lack a bit of seize and power at set pieces. Defensively they did a good job. They got a few chances, number 19 (El Moez Ali) did very well against Ireland and today he was okay as well. There is good development in Qatar’s team and I wish them the best for the future.
Your overall reflections from the camp in England?
We have to work on the attacking players, especially in the final third. You can see that most of our attacking players don’t have match rhythm, they are not starting at their clubs. You have to help and support them, but you also have to see that they have the drive and assertiveness to get into the box and get into scoring opportunities and we didn’t always see that.
What kind of identity are you trying to instill into this team?
We usually have a team with very fast players up front and I am still looking for the perfect mix, because we have had five or six different camps with different players always. In Toulon, our team was very different. Today there were nine or ten other starters – a few young players have come in, having played the U20 World Cup in New Zealand. I wanted to give them a chance and see how good they are and if they can help us. I have to make the decision for the final roster in two weeks for the Olympic qualifiers.
What do you expect from the Olympic qualifiers?
We want and have to qualify, that is our goal. It won’t be easy. In CONCACAF all the others teams are very competitive. They play differently from European teams. They don’t play the possession game. It’s important for us to break them down, but Mexico, Costa Rica, Honduras and Panama are really good. We are looking forward to do a good preparation and we will have a good chance to qualify.