(Reuters) - The chant “I believe that we will win” has become the trademark of the American Outlaws fan group and has even been incorporated into marketing hype for broadcasts of the United States team’s World Cup campaign.
But one person who is not buying into the far-fetched notion of the U.S. winning the World Cup is head coach Juergen Klinsmann.
Recent comments in a New York Times magazine article saying his team were not at a level yet to win the World Cup caused a stir in the U.S. where some viewed the comments as defeatist and even un-American.
Klinsmann, whose side face Ghana in their Group G opener on Monday in Natal, clearly was not persuaded by the arguments.
“For us now talking about winning a World Cup, it is just not realistic. If it is American or not, you can correct me,” he told a news conference on Wednesday.
“You have to be realistic. Every year we are getting stronger. We don’t look at ourselves as underdogs. We are not. We are going to take the game to Ghana and they will take it to us and it will be an exciting game and then we go from there,” the German said.
The Americans’ best performance in the modern World Cup era came in 2002 when they reached the quarter-finals and while Klinsmann has a more dynamic team than Bob Bradley’s side who lost to Ghana in the second round in South Africa four years ago, the draw for Brazil was not kind to them.
After facing Ghana, the United States must tackle Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal and then one of the tournament favorites in Germany.
A World Cup winner with Germany as a player in 1990, as a coach Klinsmann led his country to the semi-finals of the 2006 tournament on home soil.
He says the expectations surrounding his current team are significantly different than those facing Germany or hosts Brazil but insists there is nothing defeatist about his position.
”We are not shying away from anybody but first we’ve got to make it through the group. So let’s stay with our feet on the ground and say ‘Let’s get that group done first’.
“Then the sky is the limit. But to say that we should win the World Cup, that’s just not realistic.”
The U.S. had been scheduled to play a behind closed doors friendly against Belgium on Thursday but the game has been canceled with two training sessions planned instead.
Reporting by Simon Evans, editing by Ed Osmond