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Good news arrives on D-Day
by Paul Kennedy, June 12th, 2014 12:12AM

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TAGS:  men's national team, world cup 2014

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[WORLD CUP TODAY: Thursday] Sao Paulo residents will have woken up on Thursday morning to the news that subway workers have called off their strike.

That's good news for fans trying to get to the Brazil-Croatia opener in the Itaquera area, about 10 miles from downtown Sao Paulo. But it came too late for Thursday's USA-Belgium scrimmage, canceled by Red Devils coach Marc Wilmots.

Soccer America Predictions:
Paul Kennedy | Ridge Mahoney | Mike Woitalla

The already bad Sao Paulo traffic had been reduced to miles and miles of gridlock, making it the main point of conversation of arrivals for the World Cup. Based outside of San Paulo, Belgium would have had to be bussed in from the base camp 40 miles outside Sao Paulo for the close-door scrimmage against the USA at Sao Paulo FC's Barra Funda training center, but Wilmots did not want to deal with the hassles.

Klinsmann: 'We feel very confident'

"We will not take the risk to go to Sao Paulo, if there is a possibility of a strike and traffic jams," he said on Wednesday. "I don't want to sit in a bus for five hours."

The scrimmage's cancellation doesn't mean the USA will have an off-day. Far from it, it will train twice on Thursday. It will fly from Sao Paulo to Natal on Friday ahead of the opener against Ghana on Monday at the 42,000-seat Arena das Dunas.



MANAUS WORRY. The USA's second match is June 22 against Portugal at the Arena da Amazonia in Manaus, where work is still be done ahead of Saturday's England-Italy opener.

The big concern is the condition of the field, where the grass looks to be in terrible shape. Carlos Botella, the head groundskeeper for the Spanish company responsible for the grass, said not to expect miracles.

“We’ve started to implement an emergency plan to try to save the field and improve it as much as possible," he told the Guardian, "but I don’t think it’ll be in good condition by the weekend."

JONES WON'T CELEBRATE. The USA closes out group play June 26 in Recife against Germany, home to five members of the U.S. national team.

Jermaine Jones was capped three times for Germany before switching allegiances to the USA when he wasn't called up for Euro 2008. That doesn't mean he has no feeling for Germany, telling reporters on Wednesday that he wouldn't celebrate if he scored against his former team.

''I think it's in respect," he said. "I grew up in this country. They gave me a lot. I have my first cap for the national team in Germany. I'm happy, too, that [Germany coach] Joachim Loew gave me this chance.''

SA World Cup Previews:
Mike Woitalla: Group A
Ridge Mahoney: Group B
Mike Woitalla: Group C
Ridge Mahoney: Group D
Paul Kennedy: Group E
Mike Woitalla: Group F
Paul Kennedy: Group H

Injury Report ...

NEUER UPDATE. Germany goalie Manuel Neuer hasn't trained with the national since he injured his right shoulder in the German Cup final with Bayern Munich on May 17 but he should be ready for the Germany opener against Portugal on Monday.

“He’s regained confidence in his shoulder, he can take the full load,” Germany goalkeeping coach Andreas Koepke said. “He’s really getting along. We did not want to take any unnecessary risks, we thought it was better for him to start training with the team a day later than to risk aggravating the injury. I’ve watched him train and I know he is 100 percent fit and ready to play. We still have a few days to prepare for the match.”


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