Klinsmann meets media at U.S. World Cup camp in Sao Paulo

U.S. supporters gather outside Sao Paulo FC facilities Wednesday morning. (By Steven Goff -- The Washington Post)
U.S. supporters gather outside Sao Paulo FC facilities Wednesday morning. (By Steven Goff — The Washington Post)

SAO PAULO — FIFA requires World Cup teams to open a training session to the public. The United States chose today and, through the embassy and the local organizing committee, invited a few hundred folks to attend a light workout at Sao Paulo FC, the squad’s base of operations for the duration of their stay in Brazil. No secrets were revealed, just fitness, drills and ball work. Liliana Ayalde, the U.S. ambassador to Brazil, and guests of the White House were among those in attendance.

Juergen Klinsmann met the media for the first time since arriving from Miami, where he scouted Ghana’s 4-0 demolition of South Korea on Monday.

He reiterated his belief that realistically, his squad cannot win the World Cup. He is right. Realistically, the Americans will not raise the trophy at Maracana. Heck, it took Spain more than half of a century to win the championship. England, the birthplace of the modern game, has done it once — at home and under controversial circumstances. Mexico, CONCACAF’s traditional power, has never done better than the quarterfinals (twice, both at home).

So we get where Klinsmann is coming from, right? But saying such things contradicts the American ethos that anything is possible.

He has said it several times since taking the job and repeated it in the New York Times last week.

Today, he doubled down, with context.

“I think we are getting every year another step forward, we are getting stronger. We don’t look at ourselves as an underdog, even if people want to put us as the underdog in this very difficult group. We go in there and take the game to Ghana and they will take it to us, and then we will go back and forth and hopefully people will see an exciting game, and us as a winner at the end of the day. And then we go from there. For us now talking about winning a World Cup, it’s just not realistic.”

He contradicts himself, though, giving the Greek example 10 years ago.

“If you do like Greece in 2004, I think nobody from Greece would have said you are going to win the European Championship, but they did. Soccer is a beautiful thing; it’s unpredictable. You don’t know what happens. Every game is another step toward the next bigger goal. Once you make it through that group that we are in? Well, we are not shying away from anybody. But first we’ve got to make it through the group. So let’s stay with our feet on the ground and get that group first done, and then the sky is the limit. Today, even before the World Cup starts, to say we should win the World Cup, it’s just not realistic. American or not American, I don’t know. You can correct me however you want.”

Forward Jozy Altidore‘s thoughts on the subject:

“Look, we haven’t won a World Cup before, so you can’t go into the World Cup saying, ‘Oh, we have to do what we did in the past.’ You come here obviously with that dream in the back of your mind. At the same time, you have to be realistic to understand there are some teams that are maybe a bit more favored than we are. Saying all that, you try to see how far you can go. And then hopefully if you get closer to the end, then you to start to believe what you can do.”

Other notable comments …

Klinsmann, on the performance of Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo during a 5-1 victory over Ireland on Tuesday night:

“It was an impressive performance. Five goals in a match is beautiful. It’s great to have Cristiano back on the field after winning the Champions League trophy. The fans want to see Cristiano Ronaldo. Our job is to stop him. We will figure out ways to make it really miserable for him. But the first step is Ghana. Every day is Ghana. That is what we have been doing on the training field and once we have those three points, which is our big goal, then we will go into more detail about Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal.”

Klinsmann, on facing Belgium in a closed-door scrimmage (not a formal friendly) on Thursday at SPFC:

“It’s a training scrimmage, and training scrimmages are never as intense and physical as a normal WC preparation game. We want to give every player 45 minutes. We have a very good relationship with Belgium. They are just around the corner here.”

Midfielder Mix Diskerud, on the Belgium game:

“You want to keep building that chemistry in the group. Certainly, we want to win, of course, but it’s not that important compared to the Ghana game. But relations and put some goals in, as well as have a defensive structure, every game we want the same thing. … Hopefully, there aren’t going to be any crazy tackles. When you go into a soccer game, you can’t think I’m not going to go in 100 percent now. You always think you want to give it your best. There is a balance there and hopefully there aren’t any injuries on either team.”

Klinsmann, on getting more U.S. players onto Champions League clubs: “Our wish, our goal is to get as many players as possible one day into the Champions League. That is where you want to be, so they have that confidence and experience to face these players in the biggest cups in the world. They are very special players in our team that can play there, players that can make it to that level, but right now the statistics prove they are not there yet. So this is the stage for our players to prove they are ready for the next level, or another two levels, in their careers. There is no better showcase than a World Cup. This is now the opportunity – embrace it, give it a smile and give it a go.”

Altidore, on whether it’s odd Landon Donovan, recently cut from the U.S. squad, will join ESPN’s coverage: “Not really. Landon is a smart guy. He knows the game very well. It was always going to happen, right, him to be a commentator?”

 

 

Steven Goff is The Post’s soccer writer. His beats include D.C. United, MLS and the international game, as well as local college basketball.
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