June 18, 2014
By Michael Lewis
ENJOYING THE TASTE OF VICTORY
Confident USA sets its sights on ailing Portugal
Big Apple Soccer Editor
SAO PAULO, Brazil - Whether it was the huge confidence boost of defeating Ghana in its opener or knowing they will be battling a struggling and ailing team, the United States just might be smelling blood in the water for its World Cup confrontation with Portugal on Sunday.
|Jurgen Klinsmann: "We’re not going to Manaus to defend a 1-1 or a nil-nil [tie]. We want to go there and win this game.”
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
The Americans aren't thinking of a tie against their Group G foes, they want a victory and three points. That would lift the USA into the Round of 16 as long as Germany downs Ghana in the other group encounter.
USA head coach Jurgen Klinsmann is thinking anything but a win, heady thinking for a side that was considered a long shot to reach the knockout round.
"We have the confidence to go into that game and say ‘We're here, we're here. We want to beat you. We want to get to the next round,' " he said. "To go to Manaus and defend a 1-1 or nil-nil (tie) whatever it is. We go there and we want to win this game."
The USA could make some history with a victory. Only one American team actually produced two first-round wins and that was some 84 years ago at the very first World Cup in 1930. The Americans registered a pair of 3-0 wins in that competition.
A one-goal triumph would suffice this time.
Klinsmann said that he won't touch base with German coach Joachim Low, his former assistant on the 2006 side, for any scouting tips on Portugal.
"I think we’ve already done our homework and we’re well prepared for Portugal," he said. "We watched their entire qualifying campaign. We’ve analyzed all their individual players, like they do about us as well, so that works and then you obviously watched that game against Germany, too. We got a lot of information about things that happened there yesterday afternoon, and then you do your own thing."
Things could not get any worse for the Portuguese. They entered the tournament as the fourth-ranked national team by FIFA, boasting the top player in the world, striker Cristiano Ronaldo. But life has not been so good in recent days. They were trounced by Germany in their opener Monday, 4-0.
Portugal’s defense will need a facelift in the wake of losing two starters in the German defeat. Pepe, who was red-carded in the game, could face a three-match suspension. Fabio Coentrao, who suffered a thigh injury, has been ruled out of the competition.
And to top it off, Ronaldo reportedly limped out of practice early Wednesday with his ailing knee heavily strapped, fueling unconfirmed rumors that he was out of the competition.
"We are very well prepared with a lot of respect we have for that team," Klinsmann said. "It’s a difficult situation for them now, after that defeat, they are with their backs against the wall. It makes it even more difficult to get a result, but that’s what you want. That’s what a World Cup is about. We also have the chance to win to hopefully qualify. It can’t get any better.”
While the USA is confident, the players are far from cocky.
"Portugal is going to be a tough game," midfielder Alejandro Bedoya said. "Its football, anything can happen. Based on past World Cups, sometimes four points isn’t even enough so I don’t think we’ve gone that far to think that if we get a draw, we are safe in the group. I think we are trying to go out against Portugal and win that game, and then we don’t have to think about anything."
What was unthinkable prior to the tournament, is within reality today.