MANAUS, Brazil – FIFA didn’t give the scores of journalists in attendance the option of catching the finale of a thriller between Ghana and Germany on Saturday afternoon, but Jurgen Klinsmann was afforded that luxury.
Klinsmann began his press conference on ahead of Sunday’s match against Portugal (6 pm ET, ESPN), one that could ultimately send the United States on to the knockout stage should they win, with a wise crack about the “pretty exciting” match going on in the next room.
Then, almost eight minutes into the questioning and 83 minutes into the match in Fortaleza, he slipped away. Upon his return following the 2-2 draw, Klinsmann told reporters the result gave the US’ effort against Ghana even more credibility and put the opportunity staring the Americans squarely in the face in focus.
“It just confirms what we all knew in the beginning: that it’s a very difficult group,” he said. “A draw between [Ghana and Germany] just shows that, but also it puts the positive result that we made against Ghana in the right perspective. … For us, it’s a huge opportunity for us here tomorrow in Manaus. We’ll definitely go for it.”
Aside from the obvious goal of qualifying for the glamour rounds of the tournament for the third time in the past four World Cups, Klinsmann said his players, who he’s urged to find their way to the same leagues the Portuguese players hail from, should approach the match as an opportunity to put US soccer on the map.
“This is now the moment where you can prove yourself,” he said. “This is now the moment that you can step up and play those guys and put them in place. We want to put Cristiano [Ronaldo] and his team in place.”
That sounds an awful lot like bulletin-board material. But, then again, so did the way he summed up the gameplan he and his staff, along with World Cup advisor Berti Vogts, put together in the lead up to the Group G clash.
What Klinsmann and company probably didn’t expect was a rash of injuries and suspensions that could leave the European power without up to four starters.
“We want to take our game to Portugal. We want to get three points tomorrow,” he said. “We want to qualify for the next stage. We are full of energy. We are very impatient. We can’t wait to get this thing started.”
Just don’t expect Klinsmann to have his team poring over scouting reports right up until game time.
“As of this morning, he refuses to speak about Portugal anymore,” US goalkeeper Tim Howard said. “That gives us a long time to really just focus on ourselves. All of today with training, all of tomorrow, we won’t speak about Portugal or look at video anymore. It’s done.”
Now, the focus is inward. For everyone who said the US would be on the outside looking in, it’s time to prove a point. Time to go for it. Time to put Cristiano and Portugal in their place.
“There’s a reason why they call it the group of death,” Klinsmann said, “because we are in it, too. We have to prove that tomorrow.”