The United States opens the World Cup against Ghana on June 16 in Natal, Brazil, and coach Jurgen Klinsmann believes it's a make-or-break game even though it's a group stage match and the Americans cannot be eliminated with a loss.
"We basically start with a World Cup final against Ghana," Klinsmann told fans in a Google hangout held by the U.S. Soccer Federation on Friday, according to ESPN. "We need badly these three points. If we get three points against Ghana, I think then that the confidence will rise, the guys will be pumped up, and they will be ready for Portugal and give them a real fight."
Ghana has knocked the U.S. out of the last two World Cups — in the group stage in 2006 and in the Round of 16 in 2010.
Earning a result against Ghana is especially important because of the Americans' next two group stage opponents — Germany and Portugal — are the No. 2 and 4 teams in the world, respectively.
The U.S. plays friendlies against the Ukraine on March 5 and Mexico on April 2 as Klinsmann tries to finalize his 23-man roster.
"You review all of the strengths and weaknesses of all players," he said. "You look at what you want to see from the entire team. You look at chemistry components. You look at is [a player] a giver or a taker. Definitely, on top of all the criteria is the quality of the player. You want to have a lot of good quality in there."SI WIRE: Bob Bradley, Kristine Lilly, Brian McBride elected to U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame