United States coach Jurgen Klinsmann said his side are ready to “go the extra mile” to disprove their status as World Cup underdogs when their campaign starts against Ghana on Monday.
Ghana have been the United States’ bogey team at the last two World Cups. The Africans sent the US team home with a 2-1 group win in 2006 and then won their knockout phase clash in South Africa four years later.
Both are now in one of the toughest groups at the Brazil World Cup, alongside Germany and Portugal. Few have given the United States a chance of reaching the last 16.
But Klinsmann insists that in Natal, the northeastern city that has been drenched by four days of near incessant rain, the United States could spring a Group G surprise.
“No matter what the circumstances are, no matter how our game goes, this group (team) is ready to go the extra mile to make it happen tomorrow,” said Klinsmann.
“We just want to show that we’ve prepared the best way possible, we’ve worked very hard and we’ll take that confidence into the game because we know we’ve done a very good preparation.”
Ghana, who thrashed South Korea 4-0 in a recent friendly, also face a tough task to reach the last 16. But the Black Stars are widely tipped to win on Monday.
Veteran US midfielder Kyle Beckerman said after the Africans’ rout of South Korea it would take “an unbelievable effort” by the United States.
The US team warmed up for Brazil with a 2-1 win over Nigeria, but midfielder Michael Bradley said it’s now time to step up a gear.
“We talked the whole time about using the warm-up games for what they were — chances to build confidence and momentum, but in reality those games are over and playing in the World Cup is different to any friendly or warm-up games,” he said.
“Now it’s all about stepping on the field and playing in a World Cup and playing against Ghana, so our main focus is on what’s coming up and not what happend a few weeks ago.”
There is mounting pressure on United States to show the steady growth of football back home thanks to the popularity of the Major Soccer League (MLS).
For highly rated striker Clint Dempsey, Ghana will prove tough customers.
But the 31-year-old, who grew up playing the sport in a “small Texan town” while trying to emulate the silky skills he saw on television watching South American soccer, there is everything to play for.
“They (Ghana) are a good team, they’ve done well in the past two World Cups,” said the Seattle Sounders striker.
“But every time you come to the World Cup it’s a fresh slate, and an opportunity to prove to the rest of the world you’re a quality side.
“Our preparation has been good, we’re excited about the opportunity to play Ghana, it’s a tough team. But at the same time, if we play to the best of our ability, we have the quality to go far in this tournament and this is what we’re focusing on.”
The spotlight will fall firmly on Klinsmann when the United States play Germany, the side he won the World Cup with in 1990 and led to third place as coach on home soil in 2006. That match is in Recife on June 26.
The 49-year-old has solid belief in his players. “We want to go far. I’ve booked my flight (home) for after the final,” he said.
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(Post From PM News)