It wasn't a great Wednesday for Jurgen Klinsmann, who had to face more questions about his "USA can't win the World Cup" comments and also deal with a cancelled Belgium scrimmage.SAO PAULO, Brazil — As far as days go, Wednesday probably wasn’t one of Jurgen Klinsmann’s favorites, though he still managed to keep on smiling and laughing as he and the U.S. national team drew closer to Monday’s opening match against Ghana.
So why wasn’t Wednesday a memorable day for the U.S. coach? He had to cope with the disappointment of having a highly-anticipated closed-door scrimmage with Belgium cancelled by the Belgians with less than one day’s notice, and before that even took place Klinsmann had to spend a good portion of his morning press conference addressing the fallout from his comments that the U.S. can’t win the World Cup.
Klinsmann didn’t back down from his comments, but did clarify his main point, which is that talking about winning a World Cup is pretty pointless.
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"I think for us now talking about winning a World Cup is just not realistic," Klinsmann said. "If you do it like Greece in 2004, I think that nobody from Greece would have said, 'We're going to win the European Championship,' but they did.
“At the end of the day, the beautiful thing (about soccer) is it's unpredictable,” Klinsmann added. “You don't know what happens. Every game is another step towards the next bigger goal. Once we make it through the group that we're in, we're not shying away from anybody.
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"But first we've got to make it through the group, so let's stay with our feet on the ground and say, 'Let's get that group first done,' and then the sky is the limit. But before and half-a-year before and even now, (the day) before the World Cup starts, to say that we should win the World Cup is just not realistic.”
Klinsmann’s players supported his opinion.
“We haven’t won a World Cup before, so you can’t go into the World Cup saying, ‘Oh, we have to do what we’ve done in the past’,” U.S. striker Jozy Altidore said. “You come here obviously with that dream in the back of your mind, let’s not be silly, but at the same time you have to be realistic and understand there are some teams that are a bit more favored than we are, obviously.
“But, saying all that, you try and take it one game at a time and see how far you can go and then, hopefully if you gets closer to the end, then you start to believe a little more.”
Klinsmann faced a barrage of criticism for quotes he gave back in December regarding the World Cup, and believing there shouldn’t be talk about the U.S. winning it. Klinsmann has spent several press conferences clarifying his point, including Wednesday’s, and on that day several of his players backed their coach’s viewpoint.
“It’s not important what the people outside say,” midfielder Jermaine Jones said. “It is important with the inside of the group and we know that we have a good group. The focus has to be game-to-game. And what more could you want than to play in a World Cup? For a lot of people, this is the first one so, we’ll play the games and be happy that you can play in a World Cup.”
The U.S. team’s preparations for the World Cup took a bit of a hit with Belgium’s decision to back out of Thursday’s planned closed-door scrimmage. Belgian head coach Marc Wilmots was cited as having issues with Sao Paulo’s congested traffic, and what it might mean for a long day by trying to attempt to play a scrimmage on the same day Brazil is going to play Croatia in the opening match of the World Cup.
Both Klinsmann and his players sounded excited on Wednesday morning when asked about the friendly, but just a short time later, it was called off.
“I think its great to face some opponents there that, if you get through to the later rounds, you’re going to face some very good players,” Altidore said of the scrimmage before it was cancelled. “It will be good for us to be exposed to that and to get ready for Ghana.”
The U.S. team won’t get that chance to face one more high-level opponent before the Ghana match, but the team won’t skip a beat. Klinsmann has scheduled some more training sessions, though he will be spared questions about winning the World Cup on Thursday. There is no planned media availability with the U.S. head coach.