Quotes from Arena and Players Following the World Cup Final Draw
Bruce Arena, Brian McBride and Cobi Jones participated in a media conference call on Saturday, following the Final Draw for the 2002 FIFA World Cup.
Dec. 1, 2001
BRUCE ARENA, U.S. Men's National Team Head Coach
OPENING COMMENTS ON THE DRAW AND GROUP D:
"I think any group would have been fine with us. We are certainly pleased to be in the World Cup. Obviously Portugal will be a difficult opening game. They are one of the top five teams in the world, so it will be quite difficult to get a point, let alone three points against them. Against Korea it will also be difficult with the home support they will receive, and Poland is a team with a lot of momentum that had a great run in qualifying. It is going to be difficult no matter who we play, but if our team can improve across the next six months and go there and play well, we will have a chance to advance."
ON USA'S GROUP D COMPARED TO OTHER GROUPS:
"We were one selection away from going to Japan, and could have ended up in that difficult Group F. I was relieved when we were drawn out as the last team to complete the Korean half of the draw. It is an interesting story with England and Sweden, certainly in Group F, and of course Argentina is a favorite and Nigeria is a team that no one likes to play. There are some tough groups. Costa Rica got a good draw, and can certainly advance out of their group. Mexico is in a tough group, but if they do well in their opener then they will be in a good position to advance. We are happy where we are."
ON THE ADVANTAGE OF DISADVANTAGE OF PLAYING KOREA TWICE IN THE NEXT TWO MONTHS: "I don't know. We won't know until June 10 whether it's an advantage or disadvantage. We will know them much better than we do now, that is for sure."
ON HOW WELL HE KNOWS THESE OPPONENTS, AND IF IT HURTS NOT KNOWING THEM: "It doesn't hurt. We will certainly know Korea in the next two months. And we have six months to gather information and get familiar with our other opponents. Certainly, Portugal is a very well-known team around the world. They are a great attacking team. They are a team with outstanding attacking players, and Luis Figo was my vote for the FIFA Player of the Year. They won a difficult qualifying group over Holland and Ireland. We know very little about Korea. I saw them last summer in the Confederations' Cup. With Poland I am very unfamiliar. We know (Jerzy) Dudek in Liverpool, and their African striker (Emanuel) Olisadebe is a player with great pace and a great story for Poland. That's all I know at the moment. They are unfamiliar, but we have plenty of time to get familiar."
ON OPENING AGAINST PORTUGAL, AND WHETHER A BAD RESULT MIGHT AFFECT THE TEAM: "The joke here is that Portugal is already celebrating (that they will advance to the second round). I am not concerned about the morale of the team. They know we will be the underdog in that game.
"I don't think it hurts us to play them in the first game. It might have been more difficult to play Korea in the opening game, with the momentum of a country behind you. When you look at the situation, it is okay. All the games will be tough. Who knows if it is good or bad. We are very content with the group."
ON WHETHER HE WOULD CONSIDER PORTUGAL TO BE LIKE A SEEDED TEAM: "Without a doubt, Portugal over the last three years have been one of the best teams in the world. They are definitely comparable to teams like Brazil, Germany and Spain. So in my opinion they are like any other seeded team. They are going to be a team that in many people's eyes that can win the World Cup."
ON PLAYING THE HOST IN A WORLD CUP: "Any team is more comfortable playing at home. The U.S. playing in Korea will be a big game, and the enthusiasm and support will be impressive. I'm happy to not be playing them in the first game.
"It helps us to see Korea twice in the next two months. One will be a bit of a pressure game, because that will be a key game to see who advances (on Jan. 19 in the Gold Cup). It will be helpful, but obviously we won't be in a situation where we have our full roster."
ON WHETHER THERE IS VALUE IN HAVING EXPERIENCED WORLD CUP PLAYERS ON THE ROSTER: "Perhaps, but who knows. We'll find out when we get there. The experience some of our players gained in 1998 is relevant. We can't predict if we will be successful or in a position to advance, but I know this team will give a great effort.
"Players like Claudio Reyna, Earnie Stewart and Joe-Max Moore who have been through a number of World Cups will help us, but we are going to have a mixture of players with a lot of experience and some with none."
ON HAVING A LATE START (JUNE 5), COMPARED TO OTHER TEAMS: "We will try and get our team together at the beginning of May, playing in the Nike U.S. Cup before taking a couple of days off. I can tell you from the experience of taking the trip here, it is a long trip, it's a difficult trip. Perhaps the late start will be beneficial to us in our adjustment."
ON HOW HE PLANS TO "TRY AND MAKE THE TEAM BETTER", AS HE HAS BEEN QUOTED SAYING: "By having a number of opportunities to get our team together where the team is healthy. It's not secret that we are a better team when our best players are playing, and that hasn't happened the last two years. We will improve ourselves at every position if we can get our players healthy and on the field.
"We can get those players together with a number of games in the spring, and we have a couple of good games in Europe. Those matches will help us get our team together. We want the players in as early as possible in May to get that team together. The late starting date almost gives us a week more than we thought we would have, so it gives us an opportunity to get some good training and quality time together."
ON PLAYING AGAINST TEAMS TO HELP PREPARE FOR "GROUP D": "I'm not sure there are too many teams that duplicate Portugal or Poland, but we have two good games in Germany and Italy which will help us. We will obviously try and finalize some scheduling soon and add as many quality opponents to our schedule as possible."
ON HOW THE STYLES OF KOREA, PORTUGAL AND POLAND MATCH UP TO THE U.S.: "To be honest, I think styles are a little overdone in people's opinions. It is about 11 players on the field. Portugal has balance and a strong attack. Poland plays pretty similar to a lot of the Eastern block countries. They are good on the ball, very athletic and pretty direct. One thing I know is that the games we have played in qualifying will have us pretty well prepared for the teams we are looking at in June."
ON WHY THE U.S. MIGHT HAVE PREFERRED A POSITION IN KOREA TO JAPAN: "Geographically, Korea is smaller than Japan, with the venues in Japan being more spread out. The competition for venues in Japan was also a lot more competitive, and we were playing second fiddle to Italy, Sweden and England in trying to secure training sites, so we may not have had our top choices available. The travel there will also be more difficult, which is why we preferred Korea."
ON WHAT IS ON HIS MIND "LATE AT NIGHT" AT THE CONCLUSION OF THE DRAW AS HE PREPARES TO SLEEP (the question was answered at 12:45 a.m. in Korea): "I think the first task to think about is the organization of this team and program from now until the first game, and how we prepare ourselves over the next six months to get our team ready. That's important. And secondly, as part of that, is scheduling and the games we need to play. And thirdly is the roster, and how we reduce the numbers of players we have right now in our pool to get to a more workable number and to the ultimate number of 23. In terms of how we play, we aren't going to change much that we've done over the last three years. Our players are pretty comfortable with the style we are playing, and we understand that. Now it is getting the right mix and getting everyone healthy and getting enough games against quality competition to help make us better. And we are going to be able to do that. The organization is necessary to get us where we need to be when we open up on June 5."
ON WHAT IS ON HIS MIND IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWING THE DRAW IN TERMS OF HIS ROSTER: "The bubble players know who they are. For the most part I understand who our core players are. I think across the next two or three months, the bubble players will really tell us where they belong. We have a number of good competitions for domestic players, basically our MLS players, which will really determine where they stand in this roster. Whether they are players who are potential starters, whether they are players who will be in our top 18 or whether they are clearly just bubble players in making our roster. We have another group of players in Europe who I will see on fewer occasions who I have a pretty good understanding of where they are going to fit in this whole thing. Those are the kinds of considerations I'm making. The game against Korea next week will tell me a lot. The games in the Gold Cup will tell us a lot. And the two very difficult games in February and March in Europe will really narrow down our roster and place players in favorable or unfavorable positions."
ON THE VENUES AND OVERALL RECEPTION OF THE WORLD CUP IN KOREA: "We will start seeing the venues tomorrow. I will be in Jeonju next week. There was a lot of attention here regarding the draw. There is some concern here about ticket sales, but with Brazil here and China here, that will obviously help. There is definitely excitement here in Korea and now everyone knows what lies ahead for the World Cup and the Korean team."
ON RUI COSTA OF PORTUGAL AND A.C. MILAN: "He is a terrific player and a great passer of the ball, and he moves well without the ball. Great all around player. The problem with that team (Portugal) is you can't focus on those two guys (Costa and Luis Figo), because they have so many good players. We will have our hands full against them."
ON REPRESENTING THE UNITED STATES AND U.S. SOCCER AT THE DRAW: "It was outstanding and a great honor to be here. Everyone was very excited, and we've been waiting very long to be here and be a part of this. There was some bad taste left over from 1998 with a lot of players, so we have a chance to make a better representation in 2002. We are thrilled about the opportunity, and it was a great day for soccer around the world, and for U.S. Soccer."
BRIAN McBRIDE, U.S. forward
OPENING COMMENTS ON THE DRAW AND GROUP D: "A difficult group, but it could be worse. Portugal did very well in the European Championships (in 2000), and will be pumped up. And playing the host nation is always difficult, while Poland finished strong in their group. We will be looking forward to playing these teams for sure."
ON WHAT THE TEAM DID DURING THE DRAW: "Most of the team decided to sleep during the draw, because we are in the middle of a tough camp. So we got the word when we woke up from Pam (Perkins) and the internet. Everyone is still asleep, but I'm sure the guys will be pretty pumped about the way the draw has gone."
HIS THOUGHTS ON KOREA OR JAPAN AS A PREFERENCE TO BE LOCATED: "I haven't been to either country or played either team, but the talk around camp was that Korea had more ideal training locations for us, so the thinking is that Korea is a good fit."
ON WHETHER BEING DRAWN WITH KOREA CHANGES THE TEAM'S ATTITUDE ENTERING THE NEXT TWO MATCHES AGAINST KOREA: "I don't think it will change the attitude much. Maybe we will try and feel it out a little more. I think it could benefit both teams, which is the best way to look at it. If you look at it in a positive sense, it's a good thing."
COBI JONES, U.S. midfielder
OPENING COMMENTS ON THE DRAW AND GROUP D: "Personally, I think it is a good draw for us. Playing a host country will cause a lot of hype, but we will have an opportunity to move forward to the next round. Everyone here is excited and psyched about it, and can't wait to play those games to see what happens."
Following are additional quotes from select U.S. Men’s National Team players currently training in San Diego, Calif., in preparation for their Dec. 9 match against Korea (being broadcast on delay on ESPN at 1 p.m. ET on Dec. 10). The team is scheduled to depart for Korea on Monday (Dec. 3). The travel roster for that match will be announced on Monday.
ANTE RAZOV, U.S. forward
HIS INITIAL THOUGHTS ON THE DRAW: "I think overall, it's a good draw for us. I think it certainly could have been worse. It's positive for us. It's certainly not going to be easy, but now that (the opponents) are put in front of us, we know the job at hand. It'll be tough, with Korea being the host, Portugal having (Luis) Figo and (Rui) Costa, and Poland having qualified in Europe means they must have a pretty good team. It's not going to be easy, but we're upbeat about it. I think overall it's a positive draw."
LANDON DONOVAN, U.S. forward
HIS INITAL THOUGHTS ON THE DRAW: "I actually got up pretty early. I was kinda excited about it. (The draw) was good. I think it's definitely a tough group, but it could be worse. I think we're happy with it."
ON PLAYING CO-HOST KOREA: "Generally, they have a very good work ethic. Obviously they have some very good players, and they'll have their home crowd, so it could be our toughest match."
CARLOS LLAMOSA, U.S. defender
HIS INITAL THOUGHTS ON THE DRAW: "I think it's a good draw. We have to face the home team with South Korea, and two of the top teams in Europe with Poland and Portugal, who both finished first in their (qualifying) group, but I think it will be a good World Cup for us."
ON FACING PORTUGAL IN THE FIRST MATCH: "I think it's better that we play Portugal first. If we beat Portugal and then get a tie or win against South Korea, we're in the second round."