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Klinsmann: U.S. gave everything they had, “made their country proud”

Jul 1, 2014, 8:03 PM EDT

SALVADOR, BRAZIL - JULY 01: Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann of the United States acknowledges the fans after losing to Belgium 2-1 in extra time during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Round of 16 match between Belgium and the United States at Arena Fonte Nova on July 1, 2014 in Salvador, Brazil. Getty Images

If you were expecting a heartbroken Jurgen Klinsmann to bemoan his team’s fortunes, you haven’t been following the United States Men’s National Team’s head coach. Though his normal confidence and positivity was notably muted when he faced the media after today’s 2-1 loss to Belgium, the poise and perspective the former World Cup-winning player has leveraged during this time with the U.S. was ever-present as he discussed Tuesday’s close call.

Eight years after guiding Germany to the semifinals, Klinsmann has no regret about his second elimination from a World Cup.

“I think we gave everything to the fans, to the crowd,” Klinsmann explained, asked to give his general thoughts on the match. “[It was] a real drama, a thriller. We had enough possibilities at the end or even to put it away earlier …

“It was a game that went to the extreme. [The player] gave everything that they had. They made their country proud.”

[ MORE: Player Ratings: How US fared in brave defeat ]
[ MORE: Three things we learned from US v Belgium ]

That pride could be seen in enthusiasm fans showed in viewing parties across the country, with a newly full Solder Field in Chicago highlighting the impact the team has had at home.

It’s a pride extends to the team’s coach, who expressed his gratitude to his squad after their elimination.

“All of the players went beyond their capabilities,” Klinsmann said, the U.S. eliminated in extra time of the Round of 16 for the second straight World Cup. “I told them in the locker room, I’m very proud of them …”

“We’ve done a lot of work. We would have liked to continue a little longer in this tournament, but that’s not doable. We had a chance to put them away, but Belgium and their chances, too.”

That they even had those chances meant the U.S. exceeded expectations, with the team widely picked to be eliminated after the group stage. But for Klinsmann, who also acts as technical director for U.S. soccer, the importance of the World Cup’s results extend beyond Brazil.

“What you hope is that your team really takes [the World Cup] experience and understand now what this level means,” Klinsmann said, describing the progress his team has made, “what the intensity means, what the pace means, and the demands … It’s not only going to training and playing a game on the weekend. It’s about lifestyle. So much goes into this.”

The one failing Klinsmann’s noted was his team’s mentality, with the U.S. boss seeing his team as too deferential to Germany and Belgium.

“There’s still the mental approach,” Klinsmann cited. “We learn more and more. We’re kind of in that process, [trying] to take our game to the opponent, no matter what their name is, [but] we wait too long.

“I think there’s still a little bit too much respect on our end. When it comes to the big stage, why not play them eye to eye? This is something we have to go through. I don’t know how many years it will take.”

Despite his teams’ reticence, Klinsmann still wants his players to be more aggressive.

“I’m screaming my lungs off on the sidelines, [trying] to push them higher up the field. This is something they have to get out of their minds. Even against talented teams, [we have] to play them higher and higher up.”

Now at the end of the his first cycle as coach, Klinsmann remains committed to being the man who’ll change that mentality. Asked if he will be coaching the team at Russia 2018, the 49-year-old gave a confirming “I think so” before moving back to his team’s performance.

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