World Cup: Jurgen Klinsmann stresses importance of opener vs. Ghana – "just like a knockout game"

A lot has changed in the four years since the US national team last took the field in a World Cup game.

But one thing will remain the same when the Yanks return to soccer’s biggest stage: their opponents. And even though the USMNT open in just a few weeks' time against Ghana, the team that sent them packing in both 2006 and 2010 – in the final game of the group stage and round of 16, respectively – Jurgen Klinsmann said the stakes are about the same.

"Its pretty much just like a knockout game anyways,” Klinsmann said Friday on ESPN FC in an interview with Alexi Lalas.

Getting full points against Ghana with two world powers looming in the forms of Germany and Portugal has been the consensus among USMNT fans and followers. So how does Klinsmann approach the game with that in mind? Does he send his team out attacking with all its might?

“No, I think obviously you know you don’t want to open up too much right from the beginning, but we want to make it clear stepping on the field that it's our game on that given day,” Klinsmann said. “We know if we can get the three points [against] Ghana we put ourselves in a very good position for the next game against Portugal in Manaus, in the Amazon, and therefore it is very, very crucial we have a good start.”

Basically, Klinsmann said, not much has changed in four years after all.

“I don’t know now how it’s different,” he explained. “Last time we met Ghana in World Cup every player, every coach wants to win that game. Timing is a different one because you face them in the first game and not in the knockout stage."