Spurs keeper Brad Friedel discusses USA’s prospects at the World Cup
PUBLISHED: 17:30 05 June 2014 | UPDATED: 08:05 06 June 2014
England fans may be cursing their luck after being drawn against Uruguay and Italy in Group D but, as Brad Friedel points out, it could be worse.
USA have been pitted against Germany – with America boss Jurgen Klinsmann facing his native country, who he previously managed - plus Portugal and Ghana.
Friedel won 82 caps for the US between 1992 and 2005 and went to the 1994, 1998 and 2002 World Cups before announcing his international retirement in 2005.
“It’s a very tough group,” he said. “You have one of the favourites in Germany, a team that has arguably the best player in the world right now [Cristiano Ronaldo] in Portugal, and then Ghana, who have been a bit of a bogey side for us and they’re very good in their own right.
“It’s that old saying about ‘the group of death’, but the US will be competitive. It’s probably a good thing that Klinsmann’s the manager with regards to playing against Germany, because I think tactically he’ll hopefully get it right for the US - and Portugal, we beat them in the 2002 World Cup.
“They had a plethora of stars in their team at that stage and we beat them [3-2 in the group stage] so hopefully we can look back on our experience there and do the same.
“It’s going to be interesting to watch and every game is going to be a difficult one, so if we do get through I think it will be a tremendous achievement, but it is something that we should aspire to.
“Everyone will always see United States and if we win a game they’ll think it’s surprising, so hopefully we surprise a few.”
Asked if he feels America’s group is tougher than England’s, Friedel said: “Costa Rica on their travels aren’t as powerful as people would think.
“Obviously Uruguay and Italy are very formidable sides but when you’re talking about that group there are four teams.
“Costa Rica are a decent side, they’re very good at home but they don’t travel as well so I don’t foresee them taking as many points off the other teams in the group, like Ghana could or like the US could in our group.”
Ghana have knocked America out of the last two World Cups, winning 2-1 in the final group game in 2006 and then triumphing by the same scoreline in the last 16 in 2010 – but Friedel says his countrymen are pleased to be facing the Black Stars again.
“I think the way that the American mentality is, that will be a score to settle,” said the 43-year-old Tottenham goalkeeper. “The American mentality is very much that if you get it wrong and you don’t win then you want another crack at it.
“When the draw came out, it wasn’t doom and gloom or anything of that nature. It’s just one of those exciting groups that we’re going to be involved in and I think the world’s eyes are going to be on that group because every game is going to be tight.”
Spurs legend Klinsmann is now almost three years into his job with the USA and, ahead of his first World Cup in charge of the Americans, he signed a contract extension in December which runs until 2018.
“I think he’s done a very good job,” said Friedel. “When he first went in there and results weren’t going very well, people were questioning his tactical choices and things of that nature.
“I thought he did a very good job staying calm because he knew exactly what he wanted to try to implement. He needed the 12 months or so to find what players would fit into his system, and he’s found them, for the most part.
“In the second phase of qualifying they did really well, they qualified very early and they’ve had some decent results in some of the friendlies.
“Some of them, if you go onto European soil, were not as good but they beat Germany [4-3 last June], they lost to Belgium [4-2 last May] - who are a very good side – and they lost to Ukraine [2-0 in March].
“He’s done a really good job and I think the new contract that he got probably proves that, and there’s a lot of confidence in him in the United States.”
There will also be plenty of confidence in the nation’s top two goalkeepers – Everton’s Tim Howard and Aston Villa’s Brad Guzan.
“Tim will be the No1, provided he stays injury-free, and they’ve got an absolutely outstanding No2 in Brad Guzan if something happens to Tim so we’re very solid there,” said Friedel, who
hopes that USA will put in a good showing in Brazil to help increase the profile and popularity of Major League Soccer.
“That’s always useful,” he said. “We’ve probably just come up level with or overtaken the NHL (ice hockey) in popularity. People might disagree.
“We’re not where the NFL (American football), NBA (basketball) or Major League Baseball is but we’re getting stronger and stronger so every time we’re on the world stage and we do well it’ll help the cause in the States.”
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