HARRISON, NEW JERSEY— The world’s biggest sporting event, the FIFA World Cup, kicks off June 12 in Brazil, with the host nation facing Croatia.
The U.S. national soccer team recently hosted a media day event at Red Bull stadium in Harrison, New Jersey, just outside New York City, one of the training sites for the American team.
The team worked out ahead of its eventual 2-1 win over Turkey on June 1. The media was allowed to view this workout of easy exercises and mild training. The more intense workout took place without reporters or cameras.
A few hours later, the scene switched to a hotel room in New York City where head coach Jurgen Klinsmann and team captain Clint Dempsey were center stage.
Klinsmann, a former star German player and coach, was named head U.S. coach in 2011 and guided the Americans to their seventh straight World Cup berth. He has great confidence, despite being drawn in the so-called World Cup "Group of Death" that includes second-ranked Germany, third-ranked Portugal and 38th-rated Ghana.
“It’s a very difficult draw," said Klinsmann. "It’s a tough group. We are expected and we expect from ourselves to do well. We expect to go into the knockout stage. So we've got to figure out a way to do that. That’s what we are working on. We believe we can absolutely go into the next round. Will it be tough games, tight games? Absolutely. That’s what the World Cup is all about.”
Clint Dempsey, a star forward who commands the respect of his teammates, says being named captain of the U.S. team is a tremendous honor.
“Anytime you can go into a World Cup and be the captain for your country is something very special and you never forget," he said. "During this World Cup qualifying process, once Jurgen named me captain, I just try the best I can to lead the way I know how to."
Dempsey’s American teammates also met the media and were asked about their chances. They're optimistic and looking forward to the challenge in Brazil. Coach Klinsmann took a realistic approach to what lies ahead.
“Germany is expected to win," he said. "I don’t think we expect now us to win the cup, but definitely we want to go far. We want to do well. “
The U.S. soccer team opens its campaign in Natal, Brazil on June 16 against Ghana, the team that has knocked the Americans out of the two previous World Cups.