U.S. soccer team is focused on its World Cup opener vs. Ghana

View Photo Gallery —Players participate in final training sessions before the World Cup in Brazil begins.

SAO PAULO — For all the talk about the difficult World Cup group the United States must battle through, the Americans began practices in Brazil this week concerned with only one foe. If the U.S. men’s national team can’t pick up points against Ghana in its opening match on Monday, its road through the tournament could become impossibly steep.

“I think when you talk about a big tournament like this, everybody goes into the first game with the idea that you want points. … Everybody starts at zero. The first game is so important,” said midfielder Michael Bradley, in a meeting with reporters Tuesday morning. “Statistically, the chances of advancing go way up if you’re able to get a point or three from the first game.

“We’ve certainly made no secret of the fact that all the focus at this point is about Ghana and making sure we do everything we can, so that on June 16th we step on the field and are ready to leave it all out there. A good result puts us in a really good spot.”

The team has been watching Ghana closely. U.S. Coach Juergen Klinsmann traveled to Brazil separate from his players this week, so he could attend Ghana’s friendly match against South Korea on Monday night in Miami. He boarded a flight in time to join his square for practice Tuesday morning in Sao Paulo.

The U.S. players had dinner and a team meeting Monday night and were able to watch the second half of Ghana’s win on television. Ghana crushed South Korea, 4-0, led by Jordan Ayew’s three goals.

“It’s hard to take much from any of these warmup games,” Bradley said. “Teams are trying different things — different guys get put on the field at different spots. … You want to be sharp, you want to play well. You’re trying to make sure that as the tournament gets closer, there’s confidence and there’s momentum. but at the same time, they’re still warmup games.

“I think last night was a good example of that. It’d be easy to look at the end and say, ’4-0, what a performance.’ But still, it’s a warmup game. Regardless of how the game went last night, we have a lot of respect for Ghana. They’re a good team. We know that they’re dangerous, that they can cause trouble. At the end of it, I’m not sure how much you could take from last night or from any of it, to be honest with you.”

More on the World Cup:

American referee aims for his own bit of U.S. soccer history at World Cup

‘Like Christmas morning’ as U.S. team sets up shop in Sao Paulo

Follow Steven Goff’s travels to Brazil for the Cup | More on Soccer Insider blog

Tourists descend on Brazil | More from Brazil on the WorldViews blog

2014 World Cup preview: TV listings and game schedule

Streaming the World Cup

U.S. World Cup team player capsules

 

Rick Maese is a sports reporter for The Washington Post.
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