GENOA, Italy – Jurgen Klinsmann still has bad memories of playing Italy.
The U.S. coach lost to eventual champion Italy in the semifinals of the 2006 World Cup when he was coach of Germany, and the former Inter Milan striker knows the Americans will have their hands full against the Italians in an exhibition game Wednesday.
"It's true that I've never won against Italy," Klinsmann said. "I've lost in both matches as coach and that makes you understand that to beat the Azzurri you need to give more than 100 percent.
"I remember the World Cup semifinal. Losing that game was really hard to get over. We were playing at home dreaming of winning the World Cup," Klinsmann added. "To beat Italy you need to score first or else they'll kill you, you can't stay calm against them."
The U.S. is on a three-match winning streak, and this is the first time Klinsmann will be able to call on his top players since November's 3-2 victory over Slovenia. The Americans defeated Venezuela and Panama while playing with a backup squad.
Klinsmann is not interested in easy victories ahead of his team's opening qualifier against Antigua and Barbuda. Instead, he wants games that will provide a more realistic picture of the squad. After Italy, the Americans host Scotland and Brazil in May.
"For me every game is a new adventure," Klinsmann said. "The Americans are proud to be playing against a national side such as Italy. We want to always show everyone that we know our worth on the pitch and they shouldn't underestimate us."
The U.S., however, will be without Landon Donovan for the game in Genoa. He withdrew Sunday because he is ill and will miss the chance to play with Clint Dempsey for the first time since Klinsmann was hired as coach last year. Also out is Jermaine Jones with a strained right calf.
The two have been replaced by Sasha Kljestan and Brek Shea.
Italy also has personnel problems, especially up front where it is missing injured forwards Giuseppe Rossi and Antonio Cassano. Also, Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli has been left of the squad because of his fiery temper and unpredictability.
However, with Antonio Di Natale — who scored his 18th league goal of the season Sunday for Udinese — around, Klinsmann knows the Italians still have plenty of firepower.
"I really like Cesare Prandelli's Italy side," Klinsmann said. "Watching the last few games, I've really liked the attack, where there are amazing players and they press really well."
Roma striker Pablo Osvaldo has also fallen out with Prandelli and he was left out the squad after being sent off for violent conduct in the 4-1 loss at Atalanta — something the Italy coach says led him to call up to Osvaldo's teammate, Fabio Borini, for the first time.
"We were following him, but without the omission of his Roma teammate he would have had to wait for another time," Prandelli said. "It's time to stop this type of football, made up of off-the-ball fights. All it is is a sign of weakness. And in any case my footballers know it: Whoever spits or reacts can't be in the national team. If they don't clean up their acts, they risk missing out on the Euros."