Shortly after lifting the FIFA World Cup™ at Brazil 2014, Bastian Schweinsteiger and five other World Cup winners joined up with their Bayern Munich team-mates as the German Bundesliga champions embarked on a nine-day pre-season tour of the United States. While in America the Germany No7 was concentrated on preparing for the upcoming campaign back home, but the midfielder also had praise for his USA hosts by the end of the tour when FIFA.com caught up with him.
Schweinsteiger and Co first battled Chivas de Gudalajara in New Jersey before heading out west to face the Major League Soccer All-Stars in Portland, Oregon. Claudio Pizarro gave Bayern a 1-0 win over their Mexican opposition at Red Bull Arena, successfully heading home a Franck Ribery corner kick in a match highlighted by several strong challenges from both sides in what was meant to be a friendly.
Bayern had another arduous task six days later in the shape of the MLS-All Stars, where there was a similarly tough tone during the hosts’ 2-1 win over Pep Guardiola’s team. In particular, tempers flared in the second-half after Bradley Wright-Phillips cancelled out Robert Lewandowski’s eighth minute goal with an equally impressive strike before Landon Donovan put the All-Stars ahead. Referee Jair Marrufo had to reach into his pocket for a yellow card on three separate occasions – a disciplinary step seldom needed during pre-season friendlies.
Matters reached a boiling point in the final few minutes when Portland Timbers midfielder and Canadian international Will Johnson put in a strong tackle on Schweinsteiger, which resulted in the German international clutching his ankle and limping off the pitch. Speaking after the match Schweinsteiger did not appear to be too bothered by the challenge and instead chose to focus on the strength of play he witnessed while on tour in addition to what he experienced against the USA in Brazil.
“It was not easy in Brazil against the States,” Schweinsteiger said. “They play very hard. It is not easy to play against an American team, and (in Portland against the All-Stars) it was the same thing.”
Indeed, the Germans' 1-0 win over USA in their final Group G game on a rainy day in Recife proved to be a difficult affair for the European side, despite controlling a majority of the possession. And with the electric growth of the Stars and Stripes’ support during the World Cup on display, Schweinsteiger said it was great to see that encouragement carry over back into MLS.
They play very hard. It is not easy to play against an American team, and (in Portland against the All-Stars) it was the same thing.
“It was nice to see the fans here in Portland and the kind of soccer the (MLS) team played.” he said. “The national anthem was a special moment,” he added.
When asked about Johnson’s seemingly harsh challenge, Schweinsteiger shrugged it off and smiled. “It was a hard game and in my mind that’s soccer. In America they play like this. It’s OK.”
Now, after Wednesday’s 2-0 German Super Cup defeat to Borussia Dortmund behind them, Bayern Munich - with only a DFB-Pokal first round fixture at the weekend remaining - await the beginning of the Bundesliga season next week when they open up their campaign against Wolfsburg. Schweinsteiger acknowledged, though, that while winning the World Cup was, of course, an outstanding accomplishment, his time in Brazil left little rest for the weary.
“It is not so easy,” he admitted. “There was just three weeks of holiday for us but now we are here and we have to start the season again. We have to prepare for a very hard season. We have to look forward. Then we will see what happens.”