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U.S. MNT Player Reactions to 2006 FIFA World Cup Final Draw

U.S. MNT Midfielder/Defender EDDIE LEWIS
On the U.S. draw:
"I was watching at home and the way it was unfolding, knowing our pot was at the end, I was getting a bit antsy. As it is, we had to be put in some group. And I'm trying to be as objective as possible, but it certainly looks like the hardest group."

On watching the draw in England:
"Watching here in England, they are only talking about England, but they did stop long enough to say they thought our group was the toughest."

On playing two European teams:
"There are probably some other groups I would prefer, but every team in this tournament is a decent team so who is to say how it will play out? We have to have two European teams with the tournament being played on European soil, so that was always going to be a tough challenge."

On drawing Ghana and Czech Republic:
"It certainly looks like the toughest group, but again you want to be objective and don't want to believe it, but you look at the African teams and certainly Ghana is probably the most difficult. And other than Holland of the second pot European teams, Czech Republic is the one you don't want."

On the Draw:
"Tough draw. Definitely could have been easier for us. They are all very good teams. Italy and Czech Republic are two of the stronger European teams and Ghana is one of the stronger African teams. We have to win two games to assure we get out of the group, so that will be the challenge."

On the stadiums that will host the United States:
"Gelsenkirchen is a beautiful stadium, very nice and very modern. The field rolls in and out. The other two venues are not as modern. Kaiserslautern is the smallest venue city and Nuremberg has a track around the field, so those stadiums aren't as modern."

On the group for the U.S.:
"Tough group. Tough group. They are labeling it here as "The Group of Death," but Holland has a real tough group, too. Italy is a proven world power and to me personally, the Czech Republic has been the best European team of the last two years and they have a lot of good players. They are going to be even better with (Pavel) Nedved coming back to boost their chances. And Ghana is a very good team and could be the surprise of the tournament. They are a tough team as well."

On the first game:
 “It sets the tone for the World Cup. For everybody, the first game is very important. You don’t want to lose. You don’t want to come out of the first game and have zero points. You at least want a draw. It gives you a chance for the second game and anything can happen. Usually you need four or five points to get to the second round and you need teams to knock each other out. Getting that first point and winning the second or third game can maybe get you to the second round. Getting a point and not giving up any goals is definitely important for the first game.”

Key to get out of group:
“Basically, we have to win. At the same time, it’s going to be tough. It’s going to take a lot of work. From Czech, Italy and Ghana, we could be in "The Group of Death." There are four very good teams in that group. It’s going to take a lot of work; we’re going to take it one game at a time. We start with Czech, then Italy and then we go to Ghana. Our staff with Bruce Arena and the rest of the coaches will scout them heavily. We’ll know them inside and out, and I’m sure they’ll know us inside and out. When we get to the first game, we’ll see what happens, but we definitely are very optimistic and very confident in what we can do and how we can play on the pitch. I think everybody is excited about the draw and everybody is excited about the World Cup.”

On what the team learned in 2002:
“We learned that you can’t take anybody for granted, any team. If you are Italy or Czech, you can’t take the U.S. or Ghana for granted. I’m sure that Italy and Czech are favorites to go out of the group, but at the same time, every point in every game means a lot in the World Cup. We just have to take it one game at a time and it starts with the Czech Republic. We can’t take them lightly and they can’t take us lightly, but hopefully we come out with a good result.”

On his role on the team:
“Now I am more of a veteran -- I’m a veteran at 23. People always say that now. I have one World Cup under my belt, and I know the pressure and what goes on in a World Cup. I was young and kind of naive going out there and not fearing anybody, but now it’s a little bit different. Now there is a lot more pressure on Americans to play and get a result.”

On the pressure of the World Cup:
“We have that experience in Europe that we play in a lot of big games every year, playing in Champions League, playing against big name players and big name teams gets you ready for tough games. The World Cup is the highest competition level that we can go to in our sport. This is where it all happens. This is where World Cup legends are made. We can become one of the surprise teams and surprise some people.”

On U.S. teammate Landon Donovan:
“Landon is a big player for us. He can play a lot of different positions. He is a guy who gets us going a lot of times scoring great goals. He is a goal scorer. When he gets around the goal nine times out of 10 he’ll put it in the back of the net. You saw that in the World Cup in 2002 where he scored two great goals, and he led his team to the championship in MLS so he has definitely improved since 2002. I think we’ll see more of a leadership role out of Landon, and we just have to come up and play at the same kind of level he plays at.”

On the draw:
"I definitely think we got one of the harder groups.  Ghana is a solid team and the Czech Republic is a solid European team.  And Italy speaks for itself.  But we are a power to be reckoned with and we just have to keep doing what we do best.  We are a hard working team and we have to stick with that.  We need to stay healthy and the coaches will have us prepared.  It's the World Cup and anything can happen."

On the U.S. group:
"In every World Cup you're going to play great teams sooner or later and playing these difficult teams early gets you prepared for the later stages. We had a similar situation in 2002 when we were placed with tough teams early: Korea - the host, Portugal - one of the top teams from Europe, and Poland - another tough European opponent.  But looking back, playing those teams prepared us to face a tough Mexico team in the second round and then Germany. So if you can survive the group play you are ready for the second

On the U.S. approach to the games:
"We have one of the best coaches in U.S. soccer history and he'll have us ready to play. As players, if we keep an open mind, we'll be ready to approach whatever is thrown at us. In facing Italy, Ghana, and the Czech Republic, our team will prepare for three teams with three different styles of play."

On the U.S. group:
"It is a tough group. However, there are never any easy games in the World Cup, so we knew that we would need to play our best to advance. We have a long time to prepare between now and when the World Cup starts, so I think the team will be prepared when the time comes."

On Italy and the Czech Republic:
"Italy and the Czech Republic are great teams. I have seen them play quite a bit and we know that they have a lot of great players who play on big teams around the world. They will be difficult opponents, but I think that we can compete with both of them. We will probably be the underdogs, but that is ok with us. We will just go out there and try to get some results and advance."

On the teams the U.S. will face in Group E:
"I think everyone is pretty well aware of what Italy and the Czech Republic have and the players they have, and Ghana might be overlooked a little bit in the whole process. I think that Ghana is going to be a tough game as well. With any of the draws we would have had, you have to get a good result in the first game. The last World Cup showed that if you get a good result in the first game, that sets the tone for group play and the rest of the tournament."

On the tough draw:
"If you want to do well in the World Cup, you are going to have to beat good teams, and here every team is a good team. If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best."  

On the group:
"This is a group where athleticism will be crucial. Czech Republic is one of the best teams in the world. Italy is a soccer superpower that is always difficult to compete against. Ghana will try to use their speed to run us all over the field."

On what the USA must do to advance:
"You have to go in to every game trying to win it. Remember that we beat Portugal last time and it was the result that propelled to all the success the rest of the way."

On the group:
"I think that it's a group that we can definitely advance from, I really do. I think that the key game will be the Czech Republic game to start. Ghana is a good team but they are also a team that we can take care of. However, we've always had a difficult time with European teams on European soil so I
think that the Czech game will be the crucial one. Italy is a team against who you are always going to be in the game, and always have a chance, but in a tournament like the World Cup they have so much experience that they're going to be difficult to beat. I'm not saying that we can't, I'm just saying that it'll be difficult."

On the opening game:
"The Czech Republic game will be the pivotal game also because it sets a tone. You know if you win that game, than you know what your results need to be in the other two against Italy and Ghana."

On the difficult draw:
"It's a tough group, Czech Republic is a good team, everybody knows that Italy is a good team, and all of the African teams I think are a lot stronger than most people give them credit for, so no matter what, it is
going to be a tough group."

On how the U.S. can succeed:
"I think that the big focus for our team will have to be on ourselves and believe that what we did in the last World Cup can be duplicated. From there we just need to be confident and just go out and play. All things considered, our team is good enough to win on any given day against any team in the world and we just have to believe in that."

On his familiarity with the group teams:
"The team that we have to learn the most about will be Ghana. I played with (Chelsea and Ghana midfielder) Michael Essien at Bastia (French Ligue 1) before he went to Lyon and then Chelsea, so I know about him and that he is a great player and that he is a competitive and I'm assuming that the rest of their squad will be just as competitive and a little bit unpredictable. We are really going to have to sit down and learn a lot about them. The Italian and Czech team, you see those guys all the time in Europe and know how they play, but Ghana is the team that is the real question mark and that we're going to have to learn the most about." is the official site of U.S. Soccer, the governing body of soccer in the United States.