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Klinsmann: 'No, we're not underdogs'
by Ridge Mahoney, December 7th, 2013 4:47AM
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TAGS:  men's national team, world cup 2014


[WORLD CUP 2014: U.S. Reaction] In the aftermath of a brutal World Cup draw that matches the USA against African nemesis Ghana and European powers Germany and Portugal, here’s what U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann and his players had to say (all quotes provided by U.S. Soccer).

Goalkeeper Tim Howard, who played all four games at the 2010 World Cup, including the 2-1 overtime loss to Ghana, said of the 2014 rematch: “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.”

Group G Opponents:
Germany: Klinsmann's old team brimming with talent
Suwon debacle won't be repeated
Young guns make Black Stars Africa's best hopes

Midfielder Michael Bradley noted the bizarre quirk of not only playing Ghana again – the USA also faced the African nation in group play at the 2006 tournament – but in the opener, and thus starting up where it left off, in a way.

“It’s crazy to think that you start a World Cup against the same team that you finished the last World Cup,” said Bradley. “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.”

A good start will be essential, since a long trip to the Amazon city of Manaus to play Portugal follows the Ghana match. DaMarcus Beasley, Steve Cherundolo (maybe) and Landon Donovan are the only holdovers from the 2002 World Cup team that stunned Portugal, 3-2, in its opening game; many of their current teammates were in their mid-teens.

“I remember getting up very early in the morning to watch,” recalls Bradley, 14 at the time. “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.”

The megastar of the current Portuguese team, Cristiano Ronaldo, will be a focal point of discussion leading up to the World Cup. Beasley could be chasing Ronaldo for much of the game.

“Ronaldo is a phenomenal talent,” says Beasley. “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.

“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.”

Facing Germany in the final group game will match head coach Jurgen Klinsmann against his native land, and a game that doesn’t need any extra intrigue -- Germany beat the USA in the 1998 and 2002 World Cups -- will have plenty of it. Cherundolo has played his entire professional career with German Bundesliga club Hannover, and one of Bradley’s former clubs is Borussia Moenchengladbach. A half a dozen World Cup candidates are German-Americans.

“That game is going to mean a lot to a lot of people on different levels,” says backup keeper Brad Guzan. “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.”

The USA is regarded as a longshot to advance out of the group and some observers believe the USA is best-suited to the underdog role. Clint Dempsey isn't buying that approach.

"We want to put ourselves in a position to get out of the group and that means getting points," says Dempsey. "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."

Klinsmann rejects the term as well. Three difficult opponents are opportunities as well as obstacles and he was hired to push the program forward in the first place.

“No, we're not underdogs,” he says. “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.”

  1. Che Guevara
    commented on: December 7, 2013 at 9:54 a.m.
    Where are all those people that said African Teams never do well in Senior World Cups?? They should be calling this 1st game vs Ghana a blessing, am I right?? Afterall African teams only do well in Youth W.C.'s, correct?? I see no one saying that anymore. If USA gets out of this group, which I doubt, they have an easier road to Semi's than Mexico which draws Spain, Chile or Netherlands. So stop crying. There is no easy road to Semi's. Sure, some teams have easier groups than others but only Argentina has a favorable next round.
  1. Che Guevara
    commented on: December 7, 2013 at 9:55 a.m.
    Now USA knows why Mexico has had a tough time getting past 2nd round!! Karma!!
  1. Dennis Mueller
    commented on: December 7, 2013 at 10:54 a.m.
    Yes, Mexico could not get past the USA.
  1. Karma Newland
    commented on: December 7, 2013 at 11:04 a.m.
    Che Guevara. I hope that is your real name and that you didn't chose to use a murderer and raper of woman as your user name. If you did pick that user name, maybe you should be spending time becoming less politically naive and not worry so much about soccer.
  1. Che Guevara
    commented on: December 7, 2013 at 11:12 a.m.
    Dennis, is that your best comeback? One game in One World Cup?? They seem to be doing fine at U17, U20 and U23's. But you keep dwelling on that game.
  1. Che Guevara
    commented on: December 7, 2013 at 11:20 a.m.
    Karma, Che was a hero. USA has plenty of murderers still living today!! But lets talk about soccer
  1. R2 Dad
    commented on: December 7, 2013 at 12:57 p.m.
    I think both El Tri & US draws are favorable, for different reasons. Mexico may have a mental edge w Brazil in a way few others have(OK, France). Certainly Mexico will understand the pressure of expectations can lead to a difficult stadium environment for the Brazilians, a la Azteca for El Tri. All it takes is one bad tackle or dive in the box and the entire match can change. And the US gets to play Ghana again, where a good result can really bolster their confidence leading up the Germany match. If anyone's gotten a hall pass it's the French. A ranked draw yesterday (as done for previous world cups) would have robbed them of their position in the easiest of groups, E, where everyone has a chance of getting out.
  1. Steven SIegel
    commented on: December 7, 2013 at 1:07 p.m.
    I understand that nobody want to play in the heat and humidity of Manaus, but somebody please explain how this is a long trip..... it takes time to get anywhere, and planes move pretty quickly. Seems like it's not that big a deal.
  1. cisco martinez
    commented on: December 7, 2013 at 1:19 p.m.
    If USA can get a result from Ghana, a win or a draw, a decent performance from Portugal, remember Portugal's team was stronger in 2002 and 2006 than now, then we have a shot. I think it is possible to tie Germany, but not likely due to Germany starts off with a bang historically. The first two games will determine our fate.
  1. Chris Sapien
    commented on: December 9, 2013 at 11:29 p.m.
    the problem with mexico not progressing past the round of 16 Che, is their later round opponents know they can out physical them through the's no secret once you control el tri's midfield, you've neutralized their counter-attacking. Personally, I jumped off the couch with excitement when Ghana was announced as our first game!! The US will feast early in '14!!

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