Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

U.S. World Cup coach Klinsmann sounds more confident as opener approaches

NATAL, Brazil — Jurgen Klinsmann speaks with pragmatism. He books his airline tickets with hope.

The U.S. coach caused a stir in the lead-up to soccer's championship when he said that "I think for us now, talking about winning a World Cup is just not realistic."

But on the eve of the Americans' opener against Ghana, he revealed this: "I booked my flight after the final."

The U.S. has never advanced after starting with a loss, and it is grouped with the 37th-ranked Black Stars along with No. 2 Germany and No. 4 Portugal.

A two-day downpour has flooded some streets in this northeastern Brazilian beach town. While the skies started to clear a bit Sunday, the forecast was unsettled for Monday night's game, when the Americans try to avenge losses to Ghana that knocked them out of the past two World Cups.

Klinsmann sounded just like the U.S. Postal Service.

"It's raining. If it's snowing. If it's — what else? — thunder or lightning … field wet, field dry, heat, humidity, whatever," he said Sunday. "We're not worried about that stuff at all."

A total of 3.11 inches of rain fell Friday and 2.95 more Saturday, according to AccuWeather's Anthony Sagliani, and by late Saturday night cars had to navigate at least 18 inches of standing water. Natal's City Hall declared a flood alert and evacuated dozens of residents as a precaution in the Mae Luiza neighborhood in the city's west.

Still, the field appeared firm during workouts Sunday at the new Arena das Dunas, whose wavy, asymmetrical exterior was designed to resemble the nearby sand dunes of a city nearly as close to west Africa (1,800 miles) as to the American base camp in Sao Paulo (1,400 miles).

The forecast calls for a temperature of about 80 degrees (27 Celsius), high humidity — Natal is 400 miles south of the equator — and a slight chance of showers.

"The weather is what it is, and as players that's not something we can control," midfielder Michael Bradley said. "You get to this point, you're not worried about little details, about whether the wind is blowing, whether the sun is out."

Thousands of U.S. fans are expected. The American Outlaws supporters group chartered two Boeing 767s from Houston that brought 530 fans to Brazil, and the U.S. Soccer Federation said it sold its official allotment of about 2,000 tickets.

Ghana beat the Americans by identical 2-1 scores in the final group-stage game at Germany in 2006 and in the second round at South Africa four years ago. The U.S., appearing at its seventh straight World Cup and 10th overall, has never lost to a team three straight times in the tournament.

"It's going to be like they're coming for revenge," said Ghana captain Asamoah Gyan, whose overtime goal was the difference in the 2010 match.

Teams that won their openers have advanced 85 percent of the time since the 32-nation format began in 1998. Just 9 percent of nations starting with a loss advanced, and 58 percent of those beginning with draws reached the knockout rounds.

"This is just an awesome moment, because that's the biggest stage you can have, where you kind of want to show that you improved, and nothing better than against the team that beat you the last two World Cups," Klinsmann said. "So this, as we mentioned before, is like start the whole World Cup with a final."

Ghana lost a shootout to Uruguay in the 2010 quarterfinals. The Black Stars are the youngest of the 32 World Cup teams with an average age of 25 years, 6 months, according to FIFA, while the U.S. is the 12th-oldest at 27 years, 10 months.

"Now people back home believe we can do more, which puts pressure on the players," Gyan said.

Barring late injuries, Tim Howard will be in goal, and Fabian Johnson figures to start at right back, Geoff Cameron and Matt Besler in central defense and DaMarcus Beasley at left back. Kyle Beckerman, Jermaine Jones and Bradley anchor the midfield, and Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore will be up front. The fourth midfielder likely will come from among Alejandro Bedoya, Graham Zusi and Brad Davis. Beasley would become the first American to play in four World Cups.

The Americans will wear their red white and blue road uniforms. While confident, Ghana coach James Appiah sounded wary.

"America years back I believe was more interested in baseball," he said. "They are a big football country now."

U.S. Men's National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann plays with a soccer ball before  Sunday's official training session. [Associated Press]

U.S. Men's National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann plays with a soccer ball before Sunday's official training session. [Associated Press]

U.S. World Cup coach Klinsmann sounds more confident as opener approaches 06/16/14 [Last modified: Monday, June 16, 2014 8:45am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. College World Series: Gators, LSU face off in all-SEC finals

    College

    OMAHA, Neb. — The matchup for the College World Series finals bolsters the case for those who say the best baseball in the land is played in the SEC.

    Florida’s Brady Singer, delivering during a CWS win over Louisville last week, is scheduled to start tonight against LSU.
  2. Jones: Fox Sports Sun shows depth in Rays coverage

    TV and Radio

    tom jones' two cents

    Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.

    Best coverage

    Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria (3) makes a run home for a score in the in the final game of a three-game series between the Tampa Bay Rays and AL East rival the Baltimore Orioles at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, June 25, 2017.
  3. Brian Boyle says returning to Lightning a 'huge option'

    Blogs

    As former Lightning forward Brian Boyle approaches free agency this week, he said he's trying to stay busy.

    Former Tampa Bay Lightning player center Brian Boyle (24), on the ice during first period action at the Amalie Arena in Tampa on March 16, 2017.
  4. Rays journal: Blake Snell to rejoin rotation, Erasmo Ramirez heads to bullpen

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — LHP Blake Snell is rejoining the Rays' rotation, but the move has as much to do with helping the bullpen as it does with Snell's improvement during his time at Triple-A Durham.

    Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Erasmo Ramirez (30) delivers a pitch in the first inning against the Cincinnati Reds Wednesday, June 21, 2017 in St. Petersburg.
  5. Rays' bullpen stars lit up in loss to Orioles

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Saturday it was the soft underbelly of the bullpen that let one get away from the Rays, incurring the wrath of the team's faithful followers, who wondered why the high-leverage guys weren't pitching.

    Rays closer Alex Colome, coming in with the score tied in the ninth, allows three runs in his second straight poor outing.