Klinsmann on U.S. Chances: A Matter of Nerve

Last week at SI.com, Grant Wahl posted an interesting interview with former German superstar and Southern California resident Jürgen Klinsmann. Klinsmann was a candidate for the U.S. coaching job back in 2006 and Wahl suggests he could be a candidate again in the future. The interview covers that issue and a wide array of nougaty soccer goodness. Go check it out here.

But we’re linking to it because of the following comment regarding Saturday’s U.S.-England game. After praising coach Bob Bradley’s leadership and preparation, Klinsy says:

“It’s down to the players now to prove their point. Are we able to compete with the best in the world? Are we able to keep our nerves under control when a Frank Lampard or a John Terry walk up? It’s different when you’re on the way out to the field and you see those guys in the corridor.”

Notice that he says “we” in reference to the U.S. team. Interesting. And Klinsmann made a similar comment during the 2002 World Cup: After Landon Donovan made that slashing run against Germany in the quarterfinals, only to have his curled shot saved by Oliver Kahn, Klinsmann said that Donovan hadn’t scored because he didn’t have the confidence to finish the play. It wasn’t that Kahn made a great save; it was that Donovan lacked the cojones to bury that chance on the World’s Biggest Stage against big bad Germany. Donovan had another one saved from close range in that game.

Check out the highlights here:

Yeah, that was a handball by Torsten Frings—we havent forgotten, Hugh Dallas.

But as for Klinsmann’s postgame comment, we remember thinking at the time that it was a little harsh—it was a pretty great run, after all—yet true. Having brilliantly created the opportunity, Donovan took something off his shot at the end—tried to place it when he could have driven it.

In any case, we think Klinsmann is on to something: The psychological element may be the most important factor for the U.S. at South Africa 2010, especially in Saturday’s opener. Will they be up for it? Will we get a Portugal 2002 start, or a Czech Republic ’06? The U.S. has the ability to compete with England; can they muster the will to do it come kickoff on Saturday?

We’ll probably find out within the first five minutes.

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