Plotting a Course Through the World Cup
Jurgen Klinsmann is nothing if not a health nut. While serving as head coach of the Germany national team, he imported mainstays of American professional sports like sports psychologists and developed new nutrition plans for his players.
With the U.S. National Team, he has emphasized repeatedly to his players that theirs is a 24/7 job and to always look after themselves and their physical well-being however possible. Running training sessions with the National Team, he moves and yells like he could just as easily be playing in the drills he is directing.
But once those sessions are over, Klinsmann won't do yoga.
"You know, Yoga, I tried so many times, but I just don’t have the patience for it," he said with a laugh on Wednesday.
It seems an appropriate response for a man who seems to never stop going. Klinsmann arrived in São Paulo in the wee hours of Tuesday morning on an overnight flight, then showed up and ran the team's training session at 10 a.m. that same day. On Wednesday, Klinsmann met the World Cup media for the first time in Brazil, where a prime topic of discussion was his belief about whether or not the U.S. can win the tournament it came to Brazil to play.
It was here, possibly for the first time in his recent waking hours, that he took a step back, surveying the Americans’ overall approach toward this World Cup.
"For us now, talking about winning the World Cup is just not realistic," he said. "First, we have to make it through the group. So let’s stay with our feet on the ground and say, let’s get that group done and then the sky is the limit.
“With Greece in 2004, I think nobody from Greece would have said, 'We are going to win the European Championship,' but they did. The beautiful thing with soccer is it’s unpredictable, you don’t know what happens "
To "get the group done," the U.S. must first pass a tough test against Ghana – the team that has knocked the United States out of each of the past two World Cups. The African side concluded their World Cup preparations with a 4-0 win over South Korea, a game that Klinsmann attended in order to scout his future opponents.
"I wanted to see for myself and get a good impression there. We have that," he said. "I think Ghana is number one or number two in Africa and however you want to look at it, it’s a team full of individual talent with certain players that can hurt you in a split second if you’re not alert, if you’re not awake."
Klinsmann was plenty awake in training, weaving through the drills, shouting encouragement and suggestions for improvement toward the players in front of a few hundred U.S. fans that attended the open practice. The next day, the World Cup kicks off, and Klinsmann can’t wait to get it started.
“I think you can sense the excitement of the population here, the people here, they want to embrace it. It’s their World Cup, it’s their big, big stage now, Brazil will show the world, and we’re just proud to be a part of it. But at the same time, we are very ambitious and hungry, and we want to get started on the right foot against Ghana in a few days from now.”