SAO PAULO — Landon Donovan says the United States will head to the World Cup with its most experienced group of players, giving the Americans a “real chance” to do well at this year’s tournament.
As the U.S. finishes a week-and-a-half training camp in the host country, Donovan said American players have enough confidence and experience to confront more traditional World Cup teams heading into a first round that includes matches against Germany, Portugal and Ghana.
“I think the experience that we have now far exceeds the experience that we ever had with any team, and that lines up to give us a real chance,” Donovan said Thursday. “We are confident in how we play. We are confident in what we do. Our guys have had enough experiences against all of these players, against teams like Ghana, Portugal, Germany. … We feel confident that we can get results against them, and that’s a nice feeling going into a World Cup.”
The U.S. opens against Ghana on June 16, plays Cristiano Ronaldo‘s Portugal six days later and closes the group stage against Germany on June 26.
The Americans will be playing in their seventh straight World Cup, and Donovan is heading to his fourth.
“There’s never been competition for places like there is in our team now,” the midfielder said during a news conference.
“You can really make a case for probably 35 or 40 guys to be a part of a 23-man roster, and that’s never been the case. It’s really up for grabs in a lot of positions, and that in itself obviously creates competition, which makes the team better.”
Donovan, who turns 32 in March, said the U.S. team is more respected by opponents.
“The reason it’s the group of death is because we are in it,” he said. “In the past, it would have been a relatively easier group for Germany or Ghana or Portugal because they had us in it. But now, because we are in it, it makes it one of the most difficult groups in the tournament.”
Donovan said the first goal remains to reach the knockout stage of the 32-nation tournament.
“Our expectations, like most teams, are to get out of the group,” he said. “We are aware that we have a difficult group, but the expectation is that we can do it and we are going to try to get out of our group, just like most teams in this World Cup. That is the objective. That is the goal. But we feel good about where we are at.”
Coach Jurgen Klinsmann brought 26 players to this training camp to get acclimated to the team’s World Cup base in South America’s biggest city. The team, mostly with players from Major League Soccer, will play an exhibition against South Korea on Feb. 1 at Carson, Calif.
“We’ve been very lucky to have two weeks here in Sao Paulo,” Donovan said. “It’s been very nice to have a couple of weeks to adapt to what it’s going to be like this summer. When we come back, we have a comfort level. We know the people, the club, the training facilities. It makes it a lot easier. You get a feeling for what it’s like here, and it helps a lot.”
Klinsmann is expected to visit the Arena da Amazonia on Friday in the jungle city of Manaus, where the U.S. will play Portugal.