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US mens soccer prepares for historic game in Cuba
The German national already has conceded the first two CONCACAF slots to the U.S. and Mexico.

"We want to take the next place, taking a leading role in the Caribbean ahead of Trinidad & Tobago, Costa Rica and Guatemala," Fanz recently told the German media.

The Cubans dropped a 3-1 home decision to Trinidad on Aug.20, so Fanz and his team will have plenty of work cut out for themselves when they host the U.S. in a vital World Cup qualifier Saturday at 8 p.m. (ESPN Classic, Galavision).

"These boys are hungry," Fanz said. "They want to play at a World Cup."

Fanz, who respects the Americans, realizes it will be difficult to win.

"We will try to cause trouble to the U.S.," he said. "They are the most professional team. We probably can not stop them, but we can make it difficult to them to build up their game. Our aim is not focused on the result, but on our own quality of play.

"To play the U.S. will not only be a big challenge, but a highlight in Cuban soccer."

Fanz, 54, expects a big crowd at Pedro Marrero Stadium in Havana. He added that Cuban president Raoul Castro, who replaced his ailing brother Fidel in February, is expected to watch the game.

"I don't think that there will (be) any problems," he said, adding that he didn't think the game will be used for political purposes.

Fanz's German club, German Bonner SC, loaned him to the Cuba Soccer Association in February. He is not being paid by Cuba, except for travel and living expenses.

Baseball is the favorite sport in Cuba, but Fanz said he has seen a rise in the quality of play and spectator interest. Soccer aficionados have nicknamed the team the Lions of the Caribbean, he said.

"Soccer is on the way to become a people's game," he added. "Baseball is still No.1, but soccer is coming close already. The self confidence is rising."


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