USA coach Jurgen Klinsmann says he is relishing the opportunity to test his team against France in their friendly on Friday.
Klinsmann took charge in July, after the US had lost to Mexico in the CONCACAF Gold Cup final, and his brief is to craft a team capable of making an impact at the FIFA World Cup™ in Brazil in three years' time. Results to date have been mixed, with the US picking up just a single win -- against Ecuador -- and scoring only two goals in the five friendly matches to have taken place since Klinsmann succeeded Bon Bradley.
Friday's match at Stade de France represents the sternest test yet for the former Germany great. France's world ranking of 15 does scant justice to the progress that they have made under coach Laurent Blanc and they recently celebrated qualifying for next year's EURO Championships in Poland and Ukraine.
"For us, it's really very exciting to play against such a good team," Klinsmann said. "We're in the process of restructuring the national team by introducing lots of young players. We're in a bit of a transitional period and taking on France is a marvellous opportunity for us to learn.
"But we're also very ambitious. We're not coming just to learn, but also to be competitive," he added. "We've come a long way in the United States in the last 25 years and people now expect us to compete against the top 15 teams in the world, like France."
One player likely to provide headaches for Klinsmann and his defenders on Friday is France winger Franck Ribery, who Klinsmann coached during his ill-fated stint as coach of Bayern Munich. After a troubled 2010, the 28-year-old winger has recaptured his best form this season and already boasts six goals and six assists after 12 games of the current Bundesliga campaign.
Ribery has yet to scale the same heights for France on a consistent basis, but Klinsmann expects him to prove a steady source of danger on Friday. "I really enjoyed working with Ribery," he said. "When you know what he's done, when you take him as he is, you appreciate him. I hope that one day he shows off his qualities at a big tournament, because he has everything: he's creative, quick and has perfect technique.
"He has that madness -- in the good sense -- that means he doesn't know what he's going to do just before he does it, and neither does his opponent," Klinsmann went on. "I love that. I like creative players. We'll put two or three players on him on Friday!"
Klinsmann had been out of work for over two years following his sacking by Bayern towards the end of the 2008-09 season, and says it was love for his adopted country that prompted him to accept the challenge of coaching the USA. "I have a special link with the country," he said. "My wife is American, my children grew up there and we've been living in LA since the 1998 World Cup. It's very exciting and very moving for me, because I'm half-American."
Klinsmann's stateside residency means he is well placed to judge football's health in the country and he believes that the sport is "booming," as well as gaining ground on America's traditional sporting pastimes. The 47-year-old thinks David Beckham deserves a great deal of credit for that and says that the former England captain still has a lot to give on the pitch, amid speculation linking him with a move to Paris Saint-Germain.
"Paris would be a great destination for any player," he said. "What Beckham's done for the MLS (Major League Soccer) is huge. His decision to come to the United States, like Thierry Henry or Rafael Marquez after him, has helped football there. David is a superb ambassador. He has special, unique qualities: his vision, his passing ability. It's up to the coach to decide whether he can be incorporated into a team. Only PSG can judge that."