U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann: 'We're not underdogs' at World Cup
The U.S. Soccer Federation sent along a lengthy quote sheet with reactions to the World Cup draw from U.S. national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann and many of his players. Here it is:
On the World Cup draw:
I think our group, if you take a look at it, is probably one of the toughest ones - definitely top two or three groups in this draw. From a traveling point of view we have the furthest distance to travel with our team, but we'll deal with it with a smile on our face and we're going to attack.
I look at things always from a positive side. We have a young team, a team that is growing. We've built a lot over the past two years. We've had the most successful year in our history in 2013, so we've built the confidence and the belief that we can deal with those challenges. We're going to take it one game at a time, starting with Ghana who gave us some issues in the recent World Cups. If we start off there well, then it builds even more confidence for the next two big ones.
On the difficult group:
I'm not worried at all. I'll just take it the way it is and we're going to prepare the best way and we're going to be well prepared for the World Cup. We'll build up confidence and believe that we can get good results to get into the next round. We'll do our homework on Portugal, Germany and Ghana. We're excited about this, big time. That's where you want to be in a World Cup. It's a difficult draw but we'll find a way to go through it.
On being drawn with Germany:
I kind of had in my stomach that we were going to get Germany. You know I wanted Brazil in the opening game, but obviously it's one of the most difficult groups in the whole draw. Having Portugal with Cristiano Ronaldo and then Ghana who has a history with the United States, it couldn't get any more difficult or any bigger but that's what the World Cup is about, it's a real challenge and we'll take it, we'll take it on and hopefully we're going to surprise some people there.
On if had spoken with Germany head coach Joachim Low:
We've been joking around about it already. We're pretty relaxed about it. Obviously, once the World Cup starts everyone is going to be busy and we are going to prepare our team very well. We will have the confidence to take whoever on and then we take it one game at a time.
On facing a German team that he used to coach and play for:
With the background I have, it's a special occasion and a special moment. But at the end of the day, it's a football game and you try to give your best, and we'll do that. Then we'll see what happens. I'm confident we can challenge all of those three teams and get our points to go into the next round.
On if he has an advantage playing Germany since he knows them so well:
Once the game starts, even if you know your opponent inside-out, I don't think it gives you much of an advantage because the players will be tense, they will be emotional because they want to do well, and they are going to play their game no matter what. Even if you know everything about your opponent. You know everything about Cristiano Ronaldo but it doesn't mean that you stop him, but we are going to try and stop him. It's going to be huge for us.
On the team's readiness for the World Cup:
We go in there and we're going to be prepared and we're going to be confident. We've improved so much within the last two and half years and built confidence and played all those games away from home in Europe , winning in Italy, getting a result in Russia and all that stuff. We're going to be well prepared and we don't see ourselves as any type of outsiders.
On whether he feels the USA enters the tournament as an underdog:
No, we're not underdogs. All the nations in a World Cup, these 32 nations are all big names. They all deserve to be there and there are no surprises. All the big nations are in there, and if you want to get into the top 10 or top 12 in the world, you have to start beating them.
On playing in Manaus:
It is what it is. We don't complain. We take it on. We do the traveling and we adjust to the climate. This is what a World Cup is about, it's about these challenges. It's exciting in certain ways, and a big challenge. That's what we want.
On the long travel for the group stage:
We discussed it before the draw that there would be some problems on the traveling side, and we hit the worst of the worst. Going to Manaus, every nation and every coach I talked to, they said everything but Manaus. But we'll prepare for it and we'll be ready for it. Both teams on the field will have to prepare for it we'll be ready for it. There are no excuses. We have to be prepared and we're going to deal with it.
On if the U.S. was due a tough draw after the draw for the 2010 World Cup:
I think it's very hard to assess the draws as being difficult or easy. Clearly, if you do it off FIFA rankings it's a very tough group with a number of top teams. But, there are no easy games.
The fact that we've had a rivalry with Ghana is probably a good thing. I guess if we're 'due' in your terminology, then I guess we're 'due' for a result against them. Logistically, it's a little tough as they're all pretty long trips from our base camp. We had the single easiest travel logistics in South Africa as we were the only country out of 32 that didn't have to fly in the first round. This stuff balances out.
On the opponents in the group and how the U.S. will fare:
We've had a very, very good two years; the best two years in our history. It's a tough group, but they are all tough groups at some level. If you want to advance in the World Cup, you have to beat some good teams.
Overall thoughts on the group:
I think it's an extremely tough group, which we expected, but the fact that it's tough does not mean that we can't advance through the group. I think we can. We'll have to play at our best but I think we can.
On opening against Ghana:
I think the memory will still be very fresh of the loss in the Round of 16 in 2010. I think that will help us more than it will them. We're a much stronger team than we were, and they'll know that going into the game. We'll look to set that result right.
It's nearly an impossible task to completely shut down Cristiano Ronaldo, but I think from a team standpoint we match up well with Portugal. I think that will be an important game because of how it falls in the group.
On the U.S. World Cup history against Germany:
It's exciting to have Jurgen on our sideline and the experience that he brings with his German background and quite a lot of the German-American players that we have. As tough a team as Germany is, I think they're certainly one of the favorites for the World Cup. We feel like we have an edge because we have Jurgen's experience and his inside knowledge of that team.
On his previous World Cup experience and his thoughts on the next seven months of preparation:
There's a lot of anticipation. Everything gets hyped up for the draw and there's this letdown, this lull. It gets kind of quiet. The game in March will be exciting to get back together. Then, from the time we meet up in June and have a camp, it's a whirlwind. There are so many things going on. We just need to kind of buckle down and focus. Focus on our own training and our own performances. I feel like when we finally land in Brazil, that we've done everything we can to prepare.
On where he thinks the team stands right now:
We're excited. We're looking forward to the challenge and we think we're a good team. We think we're a good team that can get better in a lot of areas. That's going to be the challenge for us and the motivation for us in the next six months.
His thoughts about the group:
Group of Death. When you look closer, four teams that in the last World Cup in 2010 all got out of their group. On our end, we know that we're going to be tested at the highest level every minute of every game, but you don't go to the World Cup expecting any easy games. On our end, now we're excited to know who we play, when we play and where we play. We'll use the time leading up to the World Cup to make sure we're ready to go on June 16.
On having gone through this before and what the next six months mean for preparations for the national team:
The way the calendar is set up, it's up to each guy to individually in their club situation keep themselves going, keep themselves moving along because the reality is there is one game in March where we'll be together for a few days but after that we'll all come together at some point at the end of May and have a few weeks to make sure everything right and really put the finishing touches on everything. That time always goes quick.
On the USA's history against Ghana and playing Ghana in the opening game of the group:
It's crazy to think that you start a World Cup against the same team that you finished the last World Cup. It's certainly a team that we know, a team that between their athleticism and between the individual talent and skill that so many of their players have, it's a very good team. We know what they're all about but at the same time I think it's a good way to start.
On playing against Portugal:
Portugal had a little bit of trouble coming out of qualifying in Europe but that doesn't say much because there are so many good teams in Europe. For me, like I said, Ronaldo is the best player in the world right now. He has shown, even when you look at the two games with Sweden, that he has the ability to, in a way unlike any other player in the world, put his team on his shoulders and will them and carry them. We have, for sure, a lot of respect for their team and we know it will be really difficult.
On his memories of watching the U.S. play Portugal in 2002:
I remember getting up very early in the morning to watch. I might have even maybe been a few minutes late and turned on the TV right as John O'Brien was scoring. But, yeah, I remember that game and remember so much from that World Cup.
On playing against Germany in the third group game:
When you look at over the past 10 years, World Cups, European Championships, they're there at the end, semifinals and finals. There are a number of guys on our team that have experience playing in the Bundesliga. Having played against them this summer certainly we'll feel that we have a good idea what their team is all about and we'll know that that last game is going to really show if we're ready to move on to the knockout stages.
On whether he knows any of the Germany players, having spent a portion of his career there:
I know Marco Reus from Dortmund well. I played with him at [Borussia Moenchengladbach] for a few years. For me, he's one of the best young attacking players in the world right now. I think having said that, they have a whole team full of those kinds of guys. It's a young, exciting attacking team and we know what kind of effort it will take from us on that day.
On the team's readiness for the World Cup:
This team has a good mix of youth and experience, so we're excited. The team that is selected to go to Brazil will do the job to try to get out of the group.
On the Group G draw:
Playing Ghana in the first game, I hope we get a good result. At the same time, playing Germany and Portugal in the next two games, if we can get points or anything out of those, we should be OK.
On Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo:
Ronaldo is a phenomenal talent. There's not a one-man-defending show to stop him. You're going to need the whole team basically, but we know and we're going to try our best to do that. If he's on my side, I'm going to try to push him inside not let him get you in a one-on-one and also have help from my midfielders and defenders.
On the international games to get ready for the tournament:
When we go to Russia, when we got to Austria, when we got Italy and we play those types of teams - Jurgen wants to throw us in the deep end and see how we do. Those types of games get us ready for the type of games we're going to be playing in the World Cup.
On Portugal being a one-man team:
I think they have a lot of weapons. I don't think they're a one-man show. Obviously Cristiano Ronaldo did something special against Sweden in the last game, but at the same time they're a good team. They have all good players, and defensively they're pretty strong.
On playing for Jurgen Klinsmann:
He's a spirited coach. He's very animated and he lets you express yourself on the field. He basically says this is where I'm going to put you - now go and do the job. He lets the personality come out on the field. Such as Clint, such as Jozy I think those guys enjoy playing for Klinsmann.
On being drawn in Group G:
It's going to be a difficult group, and there are a lot of other difficult groups as well. There's excitement amongst our team because we have a good group of guys. And this is what the World Cup's about, playing the best teams. The trick is to get off to a good start, try to get out of the group and then see what happens.
On the USA's goals in the tournament:
We want to put ourselves in a position to get out of the group and that means getting points. I don't look at it like we're the underdog, I just look at it like we want to get points in every game. I still think that our team has the quality that if we play our best ball, we can get out of the group.
On some of the factors that go into playing in a difficult group:
You can't think about 'Am I the favorite, am I the underdog? What's it going to be like playing in the heat or with the travel?' Those are factors that come into it but at the end of the day both teams have to deal with them. You both deal with the conditions, with injuries, with yellow cards. It's all part of the World Cup. Anything can happen and anything can happen on a given day.
On facing Ghana for the third-consecutive World Cup:
We've played them the last two world cups and maybe it's an opportunity for us to get them back. We feel hard done by because the last two times we played them they crushed our dreams of going further in the World Cup. We're due a win.
On the group:
We saw once everything was finished that we're getting a really difficult draw. I think it pretty much is the Group of Death. Nothing's going to be easy when you go to the World Cup and we're going to be prepared by the time we get down to Brazil. Now, I think everyone is just excited to play the games. It's going to be an exciting 2014.
On what he is looking forward to following the draw:
It's nice to hopefully get some revenge against Ghana. We play them in the first game, and in the last couple of World Cups they've been the team that knocked us out. So to get some revenge against them would be a nice start to the tournament. Then we play two very good European teams in Germany and Portugal. Playing against one of the best players in the world in Cristiano Ronaldo is something that every player looks forward to.
On the biggest initial challenge of the group:
The first challenge is getting points in the first game. You always want to start the tournament off on the right foot. So, the biggest challenge will be hopefully getting three points in the first game against Ghana.
On the travel the team will undergo:
That's something us as Americans are used to coming from such a big country. I think guys who have played in MLS are used to taking 3,000-mile trips across the country to play. I know when you go to New York or L.A., things like that.
Obviously, we're used to these long trips that we have between Europe and the United States when we have World Cup qualifiers. Taking a 10-hour flight is nothing new to us, and then having to play three days later. I think as a big country, as Americans, we're prepared for the travel and will do fine with that.
On the draw:
The hard part is getting to the World Cup, and that's something that we have done already. Once you qualify for the World Cup - and, we're talking about the biggest sporting event in the world - I think it's anyone's opportunity to lift the trophy and be considered the best country in the world.
Unfortunately we got some really good countries that have some unbelievable players and good experience. At the end of the day, you want to play against the best. We couldn't have a better opportunity than to play against such amazing countries as Ghana, Portugal and Germany.
On his thoughts of the difficulty of Group G:
When they say the Group of Death, we have to look at ourselves, as well. We're the U.S. national team and if it's considered the Group of Death [because we are a part of it], it shows how far the country has come and how big football is in America.
We have a lot of experience within our team with a lot of players who have proven they can play in the big leagues in Europe and can play against these players who will represent their countries. We have an unbelievable coaching staff, and I can assure you that when it comes time for the coach to pick the team, it's going to be a good team that goes to Brazil.
On the biggest challenge of the group:
We have to take it one game at a time and not look too far ahead. Just focus on one team at a time. We have the first game against Ghana and right now our coaching staff is preparing for that first game. Coach Jurgen [Klinsmann], Martin [Vasquez] and Andy [Herzog] all have experience to get us prepared physically, mentally and tactically when that game comes to step on the field with the right mentality.
On what is most exciting about the USA's group:
What's exciting about this draw is that it's time for us as a national team to show how far soccer has come in this country and to earn the respect that we worked hard to have. If you go back to the 2006 World Cup and look at where the team was to where the team is now, we have a lot more guys playing consistently in the big leagues and gaining experience within our national team. That's making us a stronger national team.
When we face these European teams and bigger teams, [we are] pulling out results in the past three to four years like getting a good result in Italy and playing against the bigger teams like Germany in D.C. For us, and for the rest of the world, it shows how far we've come, and we couldn't ask for a better draw than Germany Portugal and Ghana.
On the draw:
It's exciting. It's going to be three tough games, but it's the World Cup. It's what you go through qualifying for and it's what you work for. It's the biggest tournament in the world, so to be able to represent your country at a World Cup regardless of who you play, it's exciting. As players, when you see your country pulled into group it becomes all that more real and you can start slowly preparing for it.
On the difficulty and history of the teams in Group G:
They're going to be three tough games. We know that in the World Cup there are no easy games, regardless of what pot you are in and who you're going against, every game is difficult. To have that history, it's just going to add a little bit more excitement to those games and I'm sure as those games approach people will then start talking about those past games the U.S. played them, so it's just going to add to the buzz around the World Cup.
On playing Ghana to start the World Cup:
Obviously to be knocked out by them in 2010, it's kind of crazy that we're going to be starting this World Cup against them. We know it will be a tough game, but I know it's a game we're going to go in with a lot of confidence and look forward to it. Hopefully starting the tournament on the right foot, that's with three points and a win.
On facing Portugal in the World Cup:
They're a good team, and any time you can qualify to a World Cup out of Europe, I think it speaks volumes. We know that will be tough, and obviously the attention I'm sure will be on Cristiano Ronaldo and his ability as an individual and what he brings to their team. There's a reason why year and year out he's talked about as one of the best, if not the best player, in the world. He'll create a challenge, but it's exciting. In the World Cup, you want to be facing the best and you want to be going up against the best and there's not too many that are better than him.
On facing Germany in the World Cup:
That game is going to mean a lot to a lot of people on different levels. As a whole, as a country, as a team, the most important thing is to finish the group stage on a positive note and hopefully we'll be advancing out of the group after that game. Every World Cup, every year, Germany is obviously a world powerhouse, but you want to play against the best and to go against someone like Germany it will be a great opportunity.
On where the team is at this point:
Right now, I think we're full of confidence and we know what qualifying in our region is all about. It's never easy, so to have the year that we had in leading up to the World Cup, it creates a buzz around the team and the country and the supporters that get behind us.
For us as a team and as a group, I think we're constantly growing and getting better, which is important, and you need that. I think the most important thing is that we're full of confidence. We've played a lot of games in Europe against European competition we've played the big teams and in the U.S. we've played a lot of teams around the world that are difficult games that hopefully have prepared us for the World Cup.