SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- According to the latest FIFA World Rankings, the US men's national team rate third out of four teams in Group A of Copa America Centenario.
Nevertheless, US coach Jurgen Klinsmann was fairly emphatic in his assessment of the 31st-ranked Americans’ chances for a top-two finish and advancement against a field of Colombia (No. 3), Costa Rica (No. 23) and Paraguay (No. 44).
“Step 1 is to get out of the group, which we will do,” Klinsmann told reporters Thursday at Levi’s Stadium. “Then we’ll take it one game at a time. … I think we have strong enough, talented enough players to beat Colombia. Yes. We do have that.”
A win on Friday against the Colombians in the tournament’s opening game would represent a huge leap in the Americans’ chances. Even a draw would help the US going into a critical second match against CONCACAF rivals Costa Rica on Tuesday in Chicago.
“We all know that in a tournament format, your chances of advancing go way up if you can get something out of the first game,” US captain Michael Bradley said Thursday. “So that’s our sole focus right now.”
Klinsmann has been a bit of a moving target in terms of setting expectations for his side. After saying last week that “the goal, then, is really to get to the final four,” Klinsmann seemed to give himself a little more wiggle room Thursday: “Our goal is to get through this group and then take it from there and get as far as we can.”
Copa America represents the second biggest men’s tournament ever staged in the US. As Klinsmann pointed out Tuesday, it could be a chance to show FIFA’s powers-that-be that the country is prepared for another go-round as World Cup hosts after putting on the 1994 edition.
“We want to get as far as we can in the tournament,” Klinsmann said. “But we also want to showcase our game to the rest of the world, because down the road, we would love to host a World Cup again. This is a huge opportunity for all of us to show everybody outside the US that we are ready for another World Cup.”