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Jurgen Klinsmann reiterates: USA can’t win World Cup

Jun 11, 2014, 3:21 PM EDT

Turkey v United States Getty Images

One week since a New York Times article quoted United States Men’s National Team coach Jurgen Klinsmann saying that his squad can’t win the 2014 World Cup, Klinsmann reiterated his stance on Wednesday saying it’s “not realistic.”

“You have to be realistic. Every year we are getting stronger,” Klinsmann told ESPN. “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.

“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 said, repeating the comments he made to the Times last December.

The basis of Klinsmann’s views on the Yanks’ chances in Brazil – the expectations of top teams in the world are completely different.

“The whole country (Brazil) will now be in the stadiums to watch their Selecao. They expect the title,” he said. “If you coach Germany they expect a title. There is not discussion how far you can go, your goals.”

When Klinsmann’s comments from December were first released last week they triggered backlash from a number of leading media personnel, including Pardon The Interruption‘s Michael Wilbon, who said Klinsmann should “get out of America.”

“I’ve known Kobe Bryant,” Wilbon said. “And you, Mr. Klinsmann, are no damn Kobe Bryant. I mean seriously, Mr. Klinsmann now wants to tell all of American sports how to work. Get the hell out. Get out of America. If everything here — you want to coach this team fine. You haven’t won anything. You’re so gutless you went out and said ‘oh, our team can’t win, we can’t win.’ You’re supposed to be such a great coach, why are they paying you? They’re apparently paying you for something you did not only yesterday, but somewhere else about 4,000 miles away. I repeat: Get the hell out. When did Klinsmann become an expert on American sports?”

Will Wilbon come back at Klinsmann a second time? Do you agree with the pundit’s sentiments or is Klinsmann’s realism just a breath of fresh air that allows the US to better focus on the Group Stage?


  1. tridecagon - Jun 11, 2014 at 3:28 PM

    Klinsmann is probably right – but this is America, land of the plucky underdog. Do you believe that on any given day, if the cards fall right, your team can beat anybody in the world? Because all it takes to win the World Cup is to survive the group stage, and then win four games. That’s it. Sure, the odds favor other stronger teams… but why not try to win it?

    How can you say in one breath that we’re not underdogs and that we can’t realistically win the tournament?

    • bradybbgoat - Jun 11, 2014 at 5:05 PM

      Of course they’ll try to win it. Of course they can beat anyone in the world on any given day.

      The question is, can they beat the best teams in the world for 7 straight matches? At this point, its extremely unrealistic.

  2. troy2 - Jun 11, 2014 at 3:40 PM

    Wilbon’s comments were unfortunate but typical for blockheaded, non-soccer fans. I don’t like everything Klinsmann says or does but the guy has more credibility in his pinkie finger than Wilbon.

    • brookwell2013 - Jun 12, 2014 at 10:31 AM

      Well said Troy2…..Wilbon was out of line and demonstrated his lack of soccer knowledge but I’ll give him a pass….he’s a cool dude and was just exhibiting the “never, ever, ever, give up” gene most Americans carry.

  3. vols84 - Jun 11, 2014 at 3:40 PM

    We should have had Klinnsman the last World Cup. Instead Bradley was retained and we blew a great opportunity.

    • dws110 - Jun 11, 2014 at 3:51 PM

      There is an awful lot of truth in your statement.

  4. vin904 - Jun 11, 2014 at 3:58 PM

    The whole system of American soccer development had to be redeveloped to compete with the power houses of the world. Klinsman is right. We shouldn’t win the World Cup. Not this year. But he is changing the culture of development in the national team and the pool of players are younger and better then ever before. I appreciate his realistic view and I’m excited about how he has taken charge of the whole USA program.

  5. bmac2483 - Jun 11, 2014 at 4:04 PM

    I really think people are misinterpreting his comments. It seems to me that JK thinks they are a very solid squad, playing as a strong TEAM first instead of individuals, and can definitely get out of their group.

    But, I think when he says that the US can’t realistically EXPECT to win, they don’t have the mindset of going in as clear front-runners. The US is absolutely not on that level yet, they can’t go into a game against Brazil or Spain and say “we are a better team and we expect to thrash them.”

    However, I still expect them to play their best ball they can against the likes of Germany and Portugal. with the idea that if they make the right plays all game, they can sneak out with 3 points.

  6. boroteesside - Jun 11, 2014 at 4:05 PM

    It may not be the American way of viewing the nation’s chance of winning, but Jurgen Klinsman knows just how difficult it is to win this tournament, and he obviously just wants everyone to know.

    Just remember that since Argentina added their name to the list of winners for the first time in 1978, there have only been two additional first time winners – France in 1998 and Spain in 2010!

    To win the World Cup you don’t just need a strong squad, you also need a squad with world class players, so, If you want a realistic view of the chance for USA at this World Cup then just ask yourself ONE question…

    How many of the current USA squad would be good enough to make it into the squads of the teams that are favourites (Brazil, Argentina, Spain, Germany) for the 2014 cup?

  7. stirged - Jun 11, 2014 at 4:28 PM

    I don’t see the fuss, this all seems very reasonable. If the US advances and ends up in the Quarterfinals against Argentina, then yeah, it’s time for some American underdog style belief, and I doubt Klinnsman would be saying, “We might as well not play,” he would talk about the challenge and how they’re eager for it.

    And I fail to see how this is a non-American view. Every single year at least 5-10 NFL teams talk about how it is a rebuilding year, and set expectations like “Competing for the division or getting to .500.” The Browns don’t come out saying they’re good enough to win the Super Bowl, only the Jets do that, so where is Wilbon’s outcry that all these NFL coaches get fired and “get out of America.”

  8. travishenryskid - Jun 11, 2014 at 4:39 PM

    Something about a black man telling someone to get out of our country – over an opinion – feels… Uncomfortable.

    • reformed2012 - Jun 11, 2014 at 10:02 PM

      Your feeling is being shared by many Republicans.

      • travishenryskid - Jun 11, 2014 at 11:17 PM

        I didn’t realize that calling out xenophobia was a Republican trait.

  9. gbart22 - Jun 11, 2014 at 4:53 PM

    Wilbon works for espn and their whole goal as a network is to have personalities make outrageous statements and drum up controversy and talking points. They tug at people’s emotions and all you’re doing by pay credence to it feeding into that awful espn machine. It’s a farce.

    • giantsninerswarriors - Jun 12, 2014 at 3:49 AM

      Dammit! Why can’t I like this statement twice?

    • goirishgo - Jun 12, 2014 at 8:35 AM

      Yes! ESPN stands for Entertainment and Sports Programming Network. They are focused far more on entertainment than sports. Wilbon, Mark May, Dick Vitale, et al are characters in TV shows. In my mind this gives them the same credibility level as a character in any other TV show – like maybe Phil Dunphy in Modern Family. Entertaining but not too credible.

  10. egb234 - Jun 11, 2014 at 5:07 PM

    I usually like the PTI guys but WIlbon is obviously off base (ignoring the fact that his language goes way over the top). The furthest the US has ever advanced in the WC is the quarterfinals. It is unreasonable to expect them to win three more games than they have ever won before, especially given the nature of tournament play.

    Take 2010 as an example. Skill-wise, we should have walked through our group and beat Ghana in the round of 16. But the tournament ate us up and we dropped out a round early. If we had won, we would have faced Uruguay in the quarters. We probably could have beaten them if things had gone right, but saying we had more that a 50% chance to beat Uruguay would have been stretching it. Even if we did beat them, we would have met Holland in the semis. We weren’t beating Holland in 2010. And if we beat them, we would have had to beat Spain in the finals. That isn’t USA beating USSR in 1980. It’s beating USSR three times in 1980.

    Of course it isn’t impossible, and I will be hoping we pull off an incredible underdog run. But the word here is “realistic.” It’s just not realistic to expect that kind of miracle run.

  11. drewvt6 - Jun 11, 2014 at 5:42 PM

    Who cares if klinsmann is right or Wilbon is right. Its in the mainstream news! Talk it up boys. I saw Landon was weighing in in it again today. Good. Any publicity and consideration by mainstream usa media is good publicity.

  12. kicksave1980 - Jun 11, 2014 at 5:52 PM

    I think Wilbon went a little over the top, and I guess I can understand JK’s comments. It still rubs me the wrong way, and I can safely assume that it rubs his own players the wrong way as well. Most of us here on this site have played organized sports before, some higher level than others, but it rings true across the board, be it professional or amateur. If you don’t think you can win, you won’t. If you can envision it, it is possible, even if not likely. It’s sports…strange things happen every tournament. Every player has to believe they are going to be the team to win it all, in every sport, every year. If not, why even bother showing up?

  13. northseattlebruce - Jun 11, 2014 at 6:00 PM

    Guys like Wilbon are in the business of ginning up controversy where none exists.

    But that aside, c’mon guys.

    Good thing Jimmy V was coaching NC State instead of JK.

    “North Carolina, Duke, UCLA and Georgetown expect to win. We don’t have that mindset yet.”

  14. provguard - Jun 11, 2014 at 6:04 PM

    Maybe they could find a coach that could lead this country to wins… This guy has already thrown up “Maggie’s drawers”….

  15. lyleoross - Jun 11, 2014 at 6:11 PM

    Clearly JK hasn’t lived in the U.S. long enough. Otherwise he’d be smoking the American pipe dream (emphasis on pipe) and would believe that “we’re number one, we’re number one,” no matter what the facts might suggest. Shame on you Jurgen for being an adult and a realist. Shame on you for being honest. Shame on you for not lying to make your political bed more comfortable.

    We used to take pride in honesty, and people who were frank and truthful. Now we have donkey’s like Wilbon who have the chutzpa to think they’re important because they know Kobe Bryant, and call out those who are honest and forthright, because it will attract other unrealistic people to listen to them.

  16. mt10425 - Jun 11, 2014 at 6:36 PM

    So wilbon wants jk to sell a miracle to his team. I usually drive the wilbon bus but, this time Michael missed his ride. The players are smart enough to realize the ability in the locker room and, having played against the competition, realize their ability. If jk starts to ra-ra his team, he loses all credibility with his players. Motivate them-great. Lie to them-stupid.

  17. sburns20 - Jun 11, 2014 at 8:11 PM

    Excuses excuses maybe you should of picked the best guys that would help in winning. Jurgen needs to zip it with the negativity. They said rocky couldn’t beat draggo and usa hockey couldn’t beat Russia and funny how the usa doesn’t always take gold in hoops. That’s why u play the games, why go then at all Jurgen!

    • mknow406a - Jun 11, 2014 at 10:00 PM

      You’re right. If LD was on the team then winning the World Cup would be SOOOOOOOOO much more realistic. Catch up. LD can’t even beat Chivas USA without Robbie Keene carrying him anymore…

    • bmac2483 - Jun 12, 2014 at 9:06 AM

      you know that rocky was a fictional movie, right…? at least you could have talked about the movie Hoosiers, which was at least loosely based on factual events.

  18. mikeevergreen - Jun 11, 2014 at 9:11 PM

    Here’s the deal: Jurgen says, “We can’t win the World Cup.” Then we win the World Cup. Then he says, “I lied. So sue me.”

  19. mknow406a - Jun 11, 2014 at 9:57 PM

    Those that can’t play coach. Those that can’t coach work in the front office. Those that can’t work in the front office do commentary….

    Where exactly in that equation is Mr. Wilbon? I mean he has such a well established pedigree as both an athlete and coach. “I”ve know Kobe Bryant. And you, Mr. Klinsmann, are no damn Kobe Bryant.” What a idiot. He doesn’t even have enough talent to create his own insult!!! (I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.) I don’t know if the insinuation that Klinsman is somehow pro sport’s Dan Quayle was intentional, but I wouldn’t doubt it, and if so is completely beyond the pale.

    Here’s what Mr. Wilbron was REALLY saying… Mr. Klinsman if you keep suggesting there is a different way to do things, seeking change and turning the current establishment on its head, then maybe people will begin looking at me and realize that I add NO VALUE to any sport in any manner! No player has modified or improved their game because of my advice. No coach has ever called me during a break to ask me what adjustments should be made. No GM has ever called me on draft day or the at trade deadline to ask what they should do. No championship was won or lost on anything I have done or said. I have NEVER added anything other than my own self absorbed opinion,,, and because I say it loudly and obnoxiously, it entertains people enough that I get paid to do it. I’ve got all the answers, just ask me and I’ll tell you… of course if anybody in sports felt that those opinions actually had validity, I’d have had a REAL sports career and not be relegated to just telling people what they should think….

  20. thedeadlockvictim - Jun 11, 2014 at 11:12 PM

    Jeez, Klinsy, that’s like telling your kid he’s never going to be an astronaut. You know it’s true, but that doesn’t mean you have to come out and say it!

    • mknow406a - Jun 11, 2014 at 11:53 PM

      And maybe we wouldn’t have so many unemployed, college educated kids sill living at home with their parents if they weren’t told their entire lives how ‘special’ they are… perhaps the problem isn’t that he acknowledged the reality of the situation, rather we’ve become so immersed in a bubble of political correctness that we are completely unable to stomach hearing any unpleasant observations…

  21. mikeevergreen - Jun 12, 2014 at 10:10 AM

    The more I look at this, I am seeing Klinsmann’s face morph into that of Lou Holtz.

  22. pecorasc - Jun 12, 2014 at 10:30 AM

    Jurgen Klinsman is a man. Michael Wilbon is a puppet.

  23. malangsob - Jun 12, 2014 at 10:50 AM

    Oh, it’s World Cup time again! Time for those plucky U.S. Sports journalists to dust off their ‘caps’ and pretend like they know something about the “Beautiful Game”.

    Suggestion for M. Wilbon et. al.; pay attention to the sport for the other 3 years, 11months (give or take a day) when the World Cup is NOT happening. Then, maybe, just maybe people will give their comments credence.

    99% of American (U.S.) sports journalists who write about international soccer let alone those who criticize the opinions of a man whose life has been spent in and around the game hold about as much value as me criticizing a surgeon for his opinion on a procedure…None. Wilbon and friends…stick to something you know…it isn’t ‘Soccer’.

    • tomcatfl - Jun 12, 2014 at 12:58 PM

      “stick to something you know” makes me think of the old Bo Knows commercials, when he puts on a hockey jersey, hams it up, and then Gretzky just shakes his head like “no, Bo, you don’t know hockey”

  24. dcunitedwillriseagain - Jun 12, 2014 at 2:05 PM

    Total misquote. There is a HUGE difference between saying, “it’s not realistic to talk about the US winning the World Cup” vs. “The USA cannot win the World Cup”.

    This is similar to saying: It is not realistic to talk about George Mason winning the NCAA men’s BBall championship vs. saying George Mason cannot win the NCAA championship.

    Yes it’s POSSIBLE, but so is Congress voting unanimously on a budget. Is that realistic? heck no!

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