Is it possible that the chaos of CONCACAF could be a deciding factor for the US national team at the World Cup this summer in Brazil? Jurgen Klinsmann sure hopes so.
Speaking with ESPNFC.com last week from the team’s January camp in Southern California, Klinsmann was not only optimistic about his team’s chances to survive a perilous group draw, but also hinted that some of the curious rigors of playing outside of Europe might actually help the US team when the World Cup gets underway.
"I call this tournament the 'World Cup of Patience,'" Klinsmann told ESPNFC.com. "Because of the Brazilian style of life, there will be a lot of surprises waiting. ... It's not going to be a perfect World Cup for anybody.”
The US will likely need any advantage they can get. Drawn into a group with World Cup favorites Germany as well as Portugal and Ghana, the Americans are also set to log nearly 9,000 miles while hopscotching through the group stage, more than any other nation in the tournament.
But after a Hexagonal round that included blistering midday heat in Honduras, a snowstorm in Colorado and less than ideal field conditions in Jamaica – all somewhat par for the course of a year spent in CONCACAF – Klinsmann feels the US are as well equipped to handle the adversity of Brazil as any team in the draw.
"I'm pretty sure we are going to make it through to the [knockout] round," Klinsmann said. "Nothing will be laid out perfectly. Nothing [in Brazil] will be kind of the German way of 2006 where everything was on time and ironed out. There will be delays and logistical challenges with the hotels, fields, stadiums or whatever."
Added Klinsmann: "I think it is still possible for us to go eye-to-eye with the big nations and give them real games even if it is difficult climate zones or circumstances. The more we are able to adjust quicker than the other ones to those circumstances ... to prepare ourselves on a higher level physically and mentally, the more we have a chance to beat them."
Klinsmann and the current crop of USMNT hopefuls are in Brazil for a portion of the camp that ends on Jan. 25 and return to California for a matchup against Korea Republic on Feb. 1. A number of the players in the current camp – including MLSers Landon Donovan, Matt Besler, Graham Zusi, Omar Gonzalez and Eddie Johnson – are all likely to be included on the roster in Brazil, but Klinsmann said last week he has not informed any players about their status for the World Cup roster.
He added that he has “14, 15, or 16 players [I] have a clear picture of” before the only two friendlies before the World Cup camp convenes in May: Korea early next month and a matchup in Ukraine on March 5, announced on Thursday.
Regardless of who gets called, however, Klinsmann appears confident in a group still very much in flux and facing the toughest challenge of Klinsmann’s tenure.
"In the World Cup, you need to be ready to go through two months of extreme stress, problem-solving and high tension, to be a team that is ready to go through thick and thin," he said. "It does not matter if your odds are 40 percent or 10 percent.
"We know on a God-given day we can beat big nations. We just have to time it extremely well so it happens in June 2014, and that’s why I am not scared about Ghana, Portugal or Germany."