By Connor Walsh
The United States has finalized its next pair of matches with double European dates in November. The team will travel to France for a match with the 1998 World Cup Champion Les Bleus at the Stade de France on Nov. 11, followed four days later with a trip to Ljubljana, Slovenia for a rematch with the United States’ second opponent from the 2010 FIFA World Cup group stage.
The match against France will be the first for the United States since 1979, when the U.S. faced Les Bleus twice, losing both times by a combined scoreline of 9-0. The current French side is on a roll after naming Laurent Blanc manager following a dreadful 2010 World Cup. Les Bleus currently are riding a 15-game unbeaten streak dating to September 2010, and they just wrapped up Euro 2012 qualification, finishing on top of Group D, one point ahead of Bosnia and Herzegovina with a +11 goal differential.
This will be by far the United States’ stiffest test under Jurgen Klinsmann, with France featuring internationally known stars such as Bayern Munich winger Franck Ribéry, Manchester United defender Patrice Evra, Manchester City midfielder Samir Nasri, and Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema.
U.S. Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann has some history playing in France for Germany in the 1998 World Cup, where he also scored a goal against the United States in the group stages.
Slovenia comes in to this set of friendlies under a bit of pressure. Despite impressing at the 2010 World Cup, the team only managed fourth place in their Euro 2012 qualification Group C, behind traditional power Italy, surprising Estonia, and an underrated Serbian squad.
The two teams’ one and only meeting came in the second match of the group stages of the 2010 World Cup where the U.S. buried itself in the first half, but battled back to win a draw with goals from Landon Donovan and Michael Bradley. Maurice Edu’s obvious winner was disallowed for reasons still unknown to everyone except hopefully a lonely accountant in Mali, and the match finished a draw.
Slovenia’s recent poor finishing does not mean, however, that they aren’t a dangerous side, as the U.S. found out last year. Inter Milan midfielder Rene Krhin, Palermo pair Josip Iličić and Armin Bačinović, and PSV Eindhoven forward Tim Matavž are leading a dangerous new generation of Slovenians. Back stopped by, in my opinion, one of Europe’s most underrated keepers in Samir Handanovič, look for the U.S. to face a sturdy team ready to get back on track for World Cup qualifying, which starts in UEFA next year.
This pair of friendlies comes during a FIFA international break, so expect a full strength squad from Klinsmann as he builds toward CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, which starts in June next year.
Side Note: Another group stage opponent for the United States’ World Cup qualification has been decided. Guatemala will finish at the top of Group E in the Second Round, even with two matches to play, and will join the Yanks and Jamaica in Group A of the Third Round of qualifying. The final spot will is up for grabs between Haiti and Antigua & Barbuda and the U.S. will know its full slate of opponents come November 15.