NATAL, Brazil – First it came in buckets. Then sheets. Then buckets again. The rain, it seemed, was never-ending.
Streets flooded. A landslide destroyed two homes and threatened a number of others. People were evacuated. In a 24-hour period from Saturday to Sunday morning, this northern Brazilian city absorbed nearly nine inches of rain. All in all, including Friday’s deluge, the city saw more rainfall than it normally does the entire month of June.
Then, after yet more showers Sunday morning, the sun started to poke its way out from behind the dark clouds that had shrouded the equatorial city since Friday. And by the time midday rolled around, surfers rode the cresting waves, couples walked the picturesque beaches and young men played soccer in the sand.
Whether it will remain that idyllic on Saturday when United States take on Ghana at Arena das Dunas (6 pm ET, ESPN) in the first match for both in Group G, remains to be seen. Forecasts are mixed, but most agree on precipitation of some sort.
Don’t expect US head coach Jurgen Klinsmann to be monitoring the forecast too closely, though. Rain or shine, he claims the weather will be a non-issue.
“If it’s raining or if it’s snowing or if it’s thunder and lighting or whatever, this is about football being played in any circumstances,” Klinsmann told reporters at a press conference at Arena das Dunas on Sunday. “Wet, dry, heat, humidity, whatever – both teams are on the field and will give their best. We’re not worried about that stuff at all.”
The German’s dismissive attitude was certainly reinforced by the fact that the Americans snuck in a training session on Saturday morning before the worst of the weather rolled through the city of nearly one million inhabitants.
Mexico’s ability to deal with incessant rain on Friday night against Cameroon in a 1-0 victory also reassured the US, who took to the Arena das Dunas pitch for their final training session ahead of the Monday’s World Cup opener immediately following the FIFA-mandated press conference.
From afar, at least, the surface looked better than expected on Sunday in light of the driving rain that soaked the city for the better part of two days.
“Certainly the [Mexico-Cameroon] game played in this stadium, the field held up really well,” midfielder Michael Bradley said. “We’ll get a better feel for it when we go out and train today. When you get to this point, you’re not worried about little details: whether the wind’s blowing, whether the sun’s out. You’re just excited to get out on the field.”
And they’ll do just that in roughly 24 hours, facing scattered showers throughout the day and temperatures between 72 and 84 degrees.
All things considered, that sounds pretty tame, especially compared to the conditions the team faced qualifying for the World Cup in the first place. Suffocating heat in San Pedro Sula, driving snow in Denver and a rainstorm in San José all posed qualifying challenges that the Americans may have to draw upon come Monday evening.
“We’ll just have to take it the way it is, this is just our [norm], our environment going through CONCACAF,” Klinsmann said. “You’re not complaining. You’re just going to the different countries and making the best out of it.”