SAO PAULO — American fans decked out in red, white and blue watched their team’s lone public training session in Brazil, cheering and seeking autographs.
Jurgen Klinsmann maintains they shouldn’t expect the U.S. to lift soccer’s top trophy for the first time July 13, even if that stance upsets some.
“I think for us now, talking about winning a World Cup is just not realistic,” the American coach said Wednesday during his first news conference in Brazil before the tournament. “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 first done, and then the sky is the limit.”
The Americans open Monday against Ghana, the team that eliminated them from the last two World Cups, then play No. 4 Portugal and FIFA Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo. They close group play against three-time champion Germany, the world’s second-ranked team.
Landon Donovan, the star forward cut by Klinsmann last month, started work as an ESPN analyst Wednesday and said: “This will come as a surprise to nobody, but I don’t agree with Jurgen.”
He said former American defender Alexi Lalas, another ESPN broadcaster, felt the same way, as did the team’s primary fan group.
“As someone who has been in that locker room and has sat next to the players ... we agree with the American Outlaws: We believe that we will win,” Donovan said. “And I think that’s the way Americans think. I think that’s the sentiment.”
Odds makers peg the U.S. chances of winning the title at 250-1, up from 60-1 before December’s draw.
“I’ll be at the Natal game. I’ll be in Manaus. And I’ll also be in Recife — and, hopefully, the next stage,” Liliana Ayalde, the U.S. ambassador to Brazil, said after the almost two-hour training session.