June 27, 2014
By Michael Lewis
RAISING THE BAR
Klinsmann tells his team to think big, not to book flights home until July 13 championship game
Big Apple Soccer Editor
SAO PAULO, Brazil -- The man who pushed the bar so low for the United States suddenly raised it to much greater heights on Friday.
|I asked all of the players to make sure their flights are booked for July 13," said US coach Jurgen Klinsmann. That's how you have to approach a World Cup. Always start with the end in mind."
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
Coach Jurgen Klinsmann, who said several weeks ago that the USA could not win the World Cup, threw out a challenge to his team -- to think big, to think even the championship game.
"If everybody goes to their own personal limits in the
context of the team, we're going to go further in this tournament," Klinsmann said. "You've got to realize that moment. So I asked all of the players to make sure their flights are booked for July 13. That's how you have to approach a World Cup. Always start with the end in mind. The end is July 13."
The final is in Rio de Janeiro on July 13.
Fresh off his team booking a spot in the Round of 16 after surviving Group G, the Group of Death, the enthusiastic Klinsmann's optimism was in overdrive during a press conference at Sao Paulo FC.
"It just gives you more hunger for the next step," he said. "This is now what we need. We want to have those benchmarks. We want to be one day in the top 10, top 12 in the world. So, if you want to be there one day, this is now the moment to prove it, this is now the moment to show it. I told the players that this is now the time you’ve got to step it up."
Klinsmann felt the Americans can defeat Belgium, the same team that spanked the USA, 4-2, in an international friendly in Cleveland on May 29, 2013. The USA is 1-4 against the Belgians, its only victory being a 3-0 result in the first World Cup in Uruguay in 1930.
Belgium, which could be without its captain, defender Vincent Kompany (recurring groin injury), won Group H with a 3-0-0 record.
"They are full of individual talent, there’s no doubt about it," Klinsmann said. "So much talent coming through the Belgium system, it’s admirable. We also believe that we have enough confidence now going into this game, a very special one, a knockout game to say we are able to beat them."
As a World Cup champion with West Germany in 1990, Klinsmann can relate to the importance of knockout-round games.
"Everyone has to call up his 100 percent for the team," he said. "I believe that in our team so far that nobody has reached his 100 percent yet. So this is a very important message to the players -- now prove it. This is what you've worked for, so long and so hard for it. ... And make it happen. Is doable? Absolutely. They got out of this group, now anything is doable. But you need to understand that you have to raise the bar, personal and as a whole team in order to make this happen."
A Belgian reporter told Klinsmann that he made life miserable for Belgium in a World Cup match (when Germany eliminated Belgium, 3-2, at USA ’94). Klinsmann scored in that second-round match.
“I hope I can build on that one," the coach said with a smile. “I don’t remember much of that game. We are ready for this one now, hopefully Belgium, too.”