HAMBURG, Germany (June 8, 2006) – Thursday, June 8, marked the seventh day the U.S. has been in Hamburg, Germany, preparing for the start of the 2006 FIFA World Cup.
Following a day off, the team returned to its regular schedule with a morning training session, a team lunch and a press conference in the afternoon.
“Today was the first day - after the off day - that I slept perfectly,” midfielder Landon Donovan said. “I felt great in training, I felt like I could move the right way and now it's just time to prepare for the game mentally.”
Four days remain until the U.S. faces the Czech Republic on June 12 (11:55 a.m. live on ESPN2 and Univision) in their Group E opener, and U.S. Manager Bruce Arena will use that time to finalize his first team.
“The team is healthy, confident and getting a little bit sharper every day. Every day gets us closer to our 11 for Monday,” Arena said. “I have great choices - I have told the team that.
“Going into the last World Cup, I know the opening game we had a number of players who went down. This time around I really have 23 choices. It will not be easy, but I am confident because of where we are, we are going to be able to choose an 11 that is going to play a good game.”
Just less than 500 miles away from the U.S. base camp, the host Germans will face Costa Rica on June 9 in Munich to officially kick off the tournament.
Arena and his players look forward to the extra time to prepare, and are accustomed to the wait after being the last team to play a first round game at Korea/Japan 2002.
“From a coaching perspective, it is always interesting to me to see how the referees are dealing with the tournament,” Arena said. “I'm looking to see how teams come out. We are going to have the opportunity to witness what is happening over the first three days to help us a little more.”
Known for his hard-nosed play as a defensive midfielder, Pablo Mastroeni will also be taking a close look at the tendencies of the referees.
“We're a really fit team and we like to get after it a little bit,” said Mastroeni, who received a team-high four yellow cards in 2005. “The way the referees call the game is definitely going to influence the way I play.”
The team departs for Gelsenkirchen on Saturday afternoon and, by the time the U.S. team gets their first touches at FIFA World Cup Stadium Gelsenkirchen, 18 other teams will already have first round matches in the books.
“You get here and it's exciting when you get here, but the real excitement starts when the games start,” Donovan said. “It gives you a few days to really get anxious and to really want to start playing, and I think that is a great advantage.”