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World Cup Quote Sheet: Jurgen Klinsmann Final Press Conference

U.S. MNT Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann Addresses the Media at His Final 2014 FIFA World Cup Press Conference

Thanking the media and those in Brazil who helped the MNT on the trip:
“First of all, before we get into the questions, we really would love to thank São Paulo FC for hosting us during those couple weeks. It’s been tremendous. It’s been an amazing experience for all of us. Also, [thanks to] the setup of the hotel in the city and the people there. Everywhere we went we were just welcomed with open arms. It’s been a special time here. We want to thank you guys for hanging in there with us. It’s been almost seven weeks now. A lot of you were already up in Stanford and the whole journey through New York to Jacksonville down here, then obviously city by city here in Brazil. A big thank you to all of you, the way you approach everything very, very respectfully. A great relationship. We are all in this together, as we always say. We all try to make this game grow in our country and get it to the next level and working hard on it. It doesn’t mean you can’t have critical questions or critical comments or critics. It’s all totally fine. I think it’s been a great time. Unfortunately it came to an end last night with that game against Belgium. We have to accept that. But overall I think everybody’s proud of their team that went to their limits. Everybody can take a lot from those six, seven weeks that we spent together.”

On how to continue developing the team and soccer in the U.S.:
“I think it’s hugely important for us to make the game grow, the players grow, and really find ways to improve on every front. Having next summer’s Gold Cup with that, hopefully being qualified for the Confederation’s Cup in 2017; in 2016 having an Olympics that is very, very important to us. We’ve got to do much better than the last cycle there. Having a Copa America in the United States, it’s pretty much the second biggest competition you can have. I understand the European Championship is huge, but Copa America is huge as well. Hosting that means a lot to us. That’s another huge platform to make the team grow, make players grow and obviously hopefully qualify for the Confederations Cup. Every year you have big benchmarks that you can approach. In all that, the relationship with MLS is extremely important. It’s very good. We bounce so many things back and forth. We’re constantly communicating with each other. We’re trying to get on the same page more and more schedule-wise, which is important so we hopefully can get all the players that we need in order to be internationally successful.”

On how each of the players can grow from the World Cup experience:
“After analyzing every game of this World Cup, and we will do that, we will watch them over and over again and then look at details and communicating those details then to the players, in a couple weeks from now after they have their break, we’ll tell you in which areas we need to improve, in which areas we have to learn. When you play a tournament like that, I mentioned it last night, you play every four or five days, so you have to be on top of your game in every one of them. In the tournament, the maximum is seven games, but if you go through an entire season and you play in a rhythm of every four days, that is really demanding. This is about consistency, it’s about living the right way, all these on and off topics. It’s about keeping the highest tempo, the highest level of concentration, not giving away anything. It’s about the spirit of the group, being connected, helping each other out everywhere.”

On helping players regardless of where they play their club soccer:
“We always said that if they play in Mexico, if they play in MLS, or if they play in Europe, our job is to help them to play to their highest capabilities, to reach their highest personal level. When we get the players, we will try to push them. I think quite a lot of the players reached their highest level in the last couple weeks. I think we saw outstanding performances. This is our job as coaches. We are not there not to control their personal paths in terms of what clubs they play in and how they structure their careers. We don’t really have that much of a say in them. I mentioned it many times, I maybe sound like a broken record – do we want them in the biggest clubs possible? Do we want them in the highest competitions possible? Yes. I think that’s just normal. It’s in every sport the same way. But no matter where they are coming from, if we are convinced that they have the potential and they have the quality to be part of the senior National Team, we’re going bring them in no matter where they play and help them to raise the bar again.”

On injuries, the medical staff and the rigors of the World Cup:
“We knew that bringing Jozy on the bench was not meant to have Jozy on the field. He still needs a couple more days. But he’s healthy now. He’s ready to go back and build. We kept them on the edge with training and demanding because we knew that we’re going to play the best in the world every four days, so you’ve got to maximize every little area you have. Our fitness coaches did a tremendous job. Out medical staff was on top of the players every day. They worked day and night on all the players. This is what a World Cup is about. It’s a non-stop thing. It’s 24/7 for these couple of weeks.”

On Tim Howard’s performance against Belgium:
“I think it’s been a fantastic performance by Tim. He kept us in the game and he made it possible that we could have won this game or at least equalized in the last couple of minutes and go into a penalty shoot-out. It would be better for him to answer that question, maybe it was the best game that he played in his career, but only he can tell us. I didn’t watch all of his games. It’s fantastic because it also shows you how all the games of the World Cup were received back at home. Many people watched this competition, maybe more than four years ago in South Africa. It’s fun to see that and he deserves every compliment for his game last night.”

On the intensity of the knockout round:
“It’s little things that decide if you go on in the knockout stage or not. All of the knockout stage games were great, with two or three exceptions, but other ones were very, very close games and went into overtime, went into even penalty shootouts. Brazil had to go through that right away. It shows you that things are doable. In order to make them happen, it’s little things that make the difference. A little bit of luck, also maybe a little bit of individual plays that put the ball in the net or not.”

On the mentality and accountability of players changing with the growth of soccer in the U.S.:
Overall, we’re going in the right direction. I think the players understand – we often talk about this grinding attitude or mentality. You’ve got to wear a team down. You can’t loosen up. You can’t relax, never in a game. In CONCACAF, you can go and think it’s going to be an easy game; it’s no easy game anymore. All the teams globally caught up. They know how to train. They know how to play an all year-round season. They have strong domestic leagues. Their best players play in Europe, most of them. Therefore, you know how challenging it is. I think with the competition that we have now happening every year, it will help us to understand that we need to become more consistent. It’s also more demanding, more demanding on the players. Not just letting them get away with things, getting critical in certain moments, and make it clear that if you would have put that ball in the net yesterday, we would be in the next round. So think about that for a second without making it too harsh, but they need that sense of accountability, a sense of criticism, and people around them care about it. It’s good. We discussed that many times. We all have different opinions. We all would play 11 different players from the beginning on, but that is good because it gives a sense of people caring about the game. This is what happens right now in the United States. Fans and the media, you care about it and you bring in your own opinions and different opinions that the coach or the players have, it makes them feel accountable and not just walk away from a bad performance and nothing happens. No. If you have a bad performance, people should tell you that so you can make sure the next game is not bad anymore and you step it up and be alert about that. This is the growth of the game in our country. People now are starting to care about it. Fans care about it. They comment on social media, they comment everywhere about it. And that’s good. We need to make this grow and make that continue, that they get a sense of that.”

On if he feels vindicated looking back on the tournament now about his comments that the U.S. wasn’t ready to win the World Cup:
“I think saying that we come into the World Cup [that we are going to] win the World Cup is not right because you would raise the expectations to a level that is just over the moon. Is it possible to come through the group that we were in? Yes, because we did it. It is doable, it is possible. Is it possible now to go game by game and maybe even win four games? Yes it is possible. But, you can go in there and say we are going to win the World Cup because you have teams like Brazil, Germany and all the big, big countries in there. You have to take it one step at a time. If we equalize the [Belgium] game, if Wondo’s ball goes in and you win it 1-0 in the last minute, you play now Argentina and is Argentina beatable? Absolutely. If you go through Ghana, Portugal, Germany and Belgium then you take on Argentina. Absolutely we would have taken on Argentina. Crazy enough, Greece won the Eruos in 2004, and everybody though this is unbelievable. But it depends on how you create the focus in our own environment going into a tournament like the World Cup, and I thought it’s not the right thing for me to say that we’re coming to Brazil to win the World Cup. Is this a dream for everybody? Absolutely.

On what the expectations would be when the U.S. is a regular top eight or top four team in the world:
“This is definitely something we want to break into rather sooner than later. Was it our goal to come here and make it to the quarterfinals? Absolutely. Or, Maybe even surprise some people more and make ti to the semifinals? Absolutely, yes. After the ending last night we have to wait another four years for trying to do that, but I think we can only grow. Our upside is far bigger than a lot of other countries because the game is breaking through on all levels. We have to help the game grow in many different ways: with coaches educations, with referee education , with player development, with connecting the dots between the professional leagues and with U.S. Soccer as well. It’s still a work in progress, but why not try to get into those top eight? We tried before the tournament to get friendlies against different countries, they said, ‘No.’ They said, ‘We don’t want to play this U.S. team because we don’t know how to take them; they might beat us.’ They don’t want to go with a negative experience to the World Cup. Now after this World Cup, a lot of countries look at us differently and say OK, and they give us a game. If it’s South American countries, or it’s European countries; they’re not taking us lightly anymore no matter where we go. So, we’re building that respect more and more. Hopefully, we are ready now to say we are in those top eight, top 10 teams rather sooner than later.”

On which players over 30 he sees being part of the team moving forward:
“There’s no, ‘Thank you and bye.’ It’s always defined by performance, by what you bring to the table. I think there’s a good thing about going into the next year is that we have the opportunity to see a lot of young players come into our platform, into the senior team and we can give them time to show where they’re at right now. So the more experienced players, we can tell them now for the next couple of months, listen, ‘Play in your club environment. We know you inside and out. We know what you bring to the table.’ But, maybe right now for the next couple friendlies that come up and for the next year, we want to see the young players grow and see how far they can make it. Then obviously comes the Gold Cup. We want to go to the Gold Cup with the strongest team possible. Then it’s going to be similar to a World Cup or the last Gold Cup; we want to play our best team possible. We want to see how many of the more experienced players are still in it and how many of them are out. This transition year now coming up is definitely an opportunity to bring a lot of young players through the ranks and see what they are capable to do already.”

On if U.S. players are good enough to win more World Cup games on a talent level and how he can help make them better over the next four years:
“We get benchmarked at the World Cup and our benchmark ended last night. There’s definitely stuff we have to improve and get better in. It’s many things off the field and many things on the field. Playing at that kind of a tempo, at that kind of a rhythm every four days – this has to become the norm, which [it is not yet.] Maybe an example is Fabian Johnson with Hoffenheim, he never played every four days because they don’t play Europa League or Champions League. So he played every week just one game. Now suddenly you hit this kind of level at the highest tempo and your body gives you signals [that it’s too much.] Even though we trained the Send-Off games, players are not used to it yet. So our job as coaches is how can we make it clear that in order to get further and further we need to add the work load, we need to add the competition level, we need to make them understand what recovery time means, what their life off the field plays a role in many things you can achieve in your career. We have to continue to communicate that, to show them and especially start to implement that with our Under-17, Under-18, Under-20, Under-21, which will be the future Olympic team because that’s the next Generation that’s going to break in. The more we get that message to those kids, the more we will benefit a couple of years from now. When you go out in the Round of 16, clearly it gives you the message you have a lot of work still ahead of you.”

On how he can get the players to play higher up the field, toe-to-toe with top teams:
“I think it’s a mentality topic that we have to break through in a certain way because the interesting thing is every time we go down a goal, we shift it up. Then suddenly we build the pressure higher up and give [our opponent] a real good game. There’s still this sense of too much respect often. That’s why I try to play friendly games against European teams. Yes you respect your opponent, but to leave that respect off the field and go and give them the real games. A good example was in Bosnia. We were down 2-0 at halftime and I told the guys, ‘You have a game here. You just have to take it. You Have to shift it up there, put them under pressure and they will be surprised.’ We turned that game around, won 4-3, and Bosnia after the game said, ‘Yeah, actually [the U.S. can do that.’ So, it is still a mentality topic that we are working on. Not dropping to deep, not giving the opponent the first move all the time. Once you concede a goal, what’s your reaction? Now you have to chase the game and suddenly we are capable to do it. We could have turned [the Belgium] game around in the last 15 minutes of extra time. Absolutely, we had enough chances to win it 3-2 in extra time. But why not do it earlier? This is a constant discussion we have. This is why it’s so important that I have [U.S. U-20 MNT head coach] Tab Ramos with us, [U.S. U-18 MNT head coach] Javier Perez with us, [U.S. U-17 MNT head coach] Richie Williams with us, to make them clear that we have to start this process earlier with younger players, so we are not reacting to the opponent, and we try to take the game to them. Play it. Play it and here and there if you lose a game you get a lesson and that will be it. I believe it’s more a mental topic that we have to work on then it is a talent topic.”

On how losing Jozy Altidore changed the team’s tactics for the subsequent games:
“It had an impact definitely because he’s a big part of our spine. He’s a player that keeps two center backs on their toes, he can hold the ball and he gives Clint then more space and more freedom to roam around him and to get the whole game higher up the field. Not having Jozy was not ideal for us; it had an impact, but it’s not a complaint. It is what it is. Injuries happen to other teams as well, so it’s not at all an excuse, but definitely it had an impact.”

On the positives to take away from the World Cup and the first thing to start working on:
“We look into the younger generation first of all. We look into what comes through now in the U-21s, U-20s and U-18s. We have had discussions already with Tab and Javier, and we want to see how much of the talent there is going to be close to break into the senior National Team. This year coming up is an opportunity to work on many different fronts and the next benchmark will be the Gold Cup next summer. We are eager to keep working. We have a tremendous staff built now; a staff that not only works within the United States but works internationally. I think the help of Berti Vogts this last couple of weeks was a real pleasure. It was outstanding with his wisdom that he brings to the table and his eyes on things from the outside was very helpful to us. We have an established network now in Europe that can observe our young players coming through the ranks in Europe, which we have a couple of very good talents coming there as well. We built all that now over the last two, three years. It’s there, it’s working and we continue to build on it, but still in every area we discuss about player development we can do better.”

On how he views the record viewing numbers in the U.S.:
“We are all very excited about that. We are excited seeing soccer breaking through or just getting a lot of recognition in the United States now. A lot of people being on TV and being at fan festivals and getting that connection to millions of people. The game has always been very popular in the United States. Millions of children play soccer. It’s popular in high school, college and the league now is a national league that does tremendously well being built 20 years ago, getting better and better. At the end of the day, like in every country, the locomotive of getting to the next level is the National Team. The National Team, whenever a World Cup comes along, it has to do well, it has to inspire the home country to jump on board. This team now inspired the fans back at home to jump on board and have fun, to enjoy those dramatic games that they saw and keep their fingers crossed and go through emotions positively and negatively. It has been huge what happened the last couple of weeks and the connection to the fans in the United States through you media people. They should be proud of that, the players should be proud of that and the fans should be proud of that too. We saw this building the last two, three years with the American outlaws coming with more and more chapters throughout the country. Our World Cup Qualifying games were all sold out, we had a huge response there. Our Send-Off games before the World Cup, we’re finishing them in Jacksonville in front of more than 50,000 people. That all shows you that soccer’s breaking through. That is deserved recognition without taking anything away from the other big American sports. I think it’s important that people identify themselves with how the American team is playing. The energy and the commitment and tempo that we played with made people proud at home and surprised a lot of people outside of the United States, maybe in Brazil or in Europe. I got many emails and comments from European people in Italy, France and Germany who said, ‘Wow, we never saw this before that you were so close to beat the big ones.’ That’s a compliment and we take that compliment but it makes us even more hungry for the next time.”