The Norman Transcript

Sports

June 16, 2014

U.S. confident going into opening World Cup showdown with Ghana

NATAL, Brazil — Jurgen Klinsmann speaks with pragmatism. He books his airline tickets with hope.

The U.S. coach caused a stir in the lead-up to soccer’s championship when he said that “I think for us now, talking about winning a World Cup is just not realistic.”

But on the eve of the Americans’ opener against Ghana, he revealed this: “I booked my flight after the final.”

The U.S. has never advanced after starting with a loss, and it is grouped with the 37th-ranked Black Stars along with No. 2 Germany and No. 4 Portugal.

A two-day downpour has flooded some streets in this northeastern Brazilian beach town. While the skies started to clear a bit Sunday, the forecast was unsettled for Monday night’s game, when the Americans try to avenge losses to Ghana that knocked them out of the past two World Cups.

Klinsmann sounded just like the U.S. Postal Service.

“It’s raining. If it’s snowing. If it’s — what else? — thunder or lightning ... field wet, field dry, heat, humidity, whatever,” he said Sunday. “We’re not worried about that stuff at all.”

A total of 3.11 inches of rain fell Friday and 2.95 more Saturday, according to AccuWeather’s Anthony Sagliani, and by late Saturday night cars had to navigate at least 18 inches of standing water. Natal’s City Hall declared a flood alert and evacuated dozens of residents as a precaution in the Mae Luiza neighborhood in the city’s west.

Still, the field appeared firm during workouts Sunday at the new Arena das Dunas, whose wavy, asymmetrical exterior was designed to resemble the nearby sand dunes of a city nearly as close to west Africa (1,800 miles) as to the American base camp in Sao Paulo (1,400 miles).

The forecast calls for a temperature of about 80 degrees (27 Celsius), high humidity — Natal is 400 miles south of the equator — and a slight chance of showers.

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