The USA will cast a few envious glances at their Group G opponents, particularly when up against Cristiano Ronaldo and his Portugal stars, but the team’s togetherness could see it cause a shock and reach the knockout stages.
“We’re not like a Portugal, where they have a Ronaldo to count on,” said Brad Friedel, a veteran of three World Cups in goal for the Americans. “We really have to have 11 guys playing seven to eight out of 10 to beat these teams.”
Friedel, our Sony Team Ambassador covering the USA in Brazil, believes Jurgen Klinsmann’s team has the capability to upset the odds. “Can we do it? Yes, we can. But it’s not going to be a case of ‘If he plays well, we play well’. A lot of things are going to have to fall into place.
“Michael Bradley is going to be very instrumental, Clint Dempsey, Timmy Howard. Whoever plays center half in every single one of the games is going to be important for us, too.”
Friedel’s association with the tournament began in his own back yard, at USA 94.
“My memories of the World Cup in 1994 were a lot different to my memories of 1998 and then a lot different again from my memories of 2002,” he said. “In ’94, I was young in goalkeeping terms. I had been involved in the ’92 Olympics and the Pan-American games, but this was a massive event and the first time I was involved in it. And do you know what? It went by like a shot.
“You barely remember any of it. You are too young, you’re tunnel-visioned, you’re not able to take a step back and see everything. What I can remember is staying in a hotel, going training twice a day, going to the game and getting knocked out by Brazil, the eventual winners.
“Was it an incredible experience? Yes, it was. I remember 98 a lot more, but we had a lot of in-house fighting with our team in 98. The 2002 World Cup was far more enjoyable.
“I was a little bit older and we had a lot of players that were playing in Europe, and not just in squads but being core members of teams throughout Europe. We had an outstanding group of players, were very competitive and should have made the semifinals.”
America defeated Mexico 2-0 before losing to Germany in the quarterfinals in South Korea. This year’s team may have to beat the Germans, in Recife on June 26, to progress this time.