SAO PAULO: While some World Cup teams whine about withering weather and troublesome travel, American players say: Bring it on!
Some European teams worry they will wilt. The United States considers cauldron-like climates a regular finishing touch, as if the Americans were a Baked Alaska flambe.
And if FIFA added a Road Warrior prize to the Golden Ball, Golden Boot and Golden Glove, the U.S. would be assured of taking home an award.
“When you talk about playing in the heat, the travel, it doesn’t bother us,” midfielder Michael Bradley said Tuesday. “And not only does it not bother us, it excites us to see that now the other teams are so worried about it.”
The Americans have the lengthiest first-round trek among the 32 teams at 8,800 air miles, chartering roundtrip flights from Sao Paulo to Natal (1,420 each way), Manaus (1,680) and Recife (1,300).
They’ll change cities and climates repeatedly. Tuesday’s training session at Sao Paulo Futebol Club started in a 62-degree temperature with a cooling drizzle, but the Americans’ games up north figure to be played in the mid-80s or higher. And extreme humidity could make each stadium feel like a sauna.
Accustomed to an August-through-May club schedule in Europe, when players use gloves and fans insulate in thermals, some soccer officials fret. No European nation has won a World Cup played in the Americas, where Brazil has taken three titles, and Argentina and Uruguay two apiece.
Before the World Cup draw in December, England coach Roy Hodgson called the Amazon rain forest city of Manaus “problematic” and said “you have a better chance if you get one of the venues where the climate is kinder.”
The U.S. opens Monday with a 6 p.m. match against Ghana in Natal. The AccuWeather forecast calls for a daytime high in the mid-80s, dropping into the 70s in the evening with a couple showers possible.
The Americans next play in Manaus for a 6 p.m. game against Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal on June 22. The extended forecast calls for temperatures in the high-80s that day.
The U.S. completes group play against three-time champion Germany in a noon match on June 26 in Recife, a port city, where temperatures are typically in the low-80s.
That might be unfamiliar for natives of Munich and Mannheim, but it’s rather routine for the red, white and blue.
“I lived 4½ years in Houston, and that’s 100 degrees every single day with humidity plus,” defender Geoff Cameron said, “so if you can survive that, you can survive anything.”
Europeans complained about heat during the 1970 and ’86 World Cups in Mexico and were stunned by a heat wave in 1994 that turned matches into endurance tests at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas and the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. Jurgen Klinsmann scored twice as defending champion Germany built a three-goal lead against South Korea, then held on for a 3-2 win.
Klinsmann, now the U.S. coach, learned from that and the February 2013 opener in the final round of World Cup qualifying, when the Americans went to Central America and wilted during the second half of a 2-1 loss.
“Dallas at 120 degrees at 12 o’clock kickoff time because of TV rights to Europe was an experience,” he said. “You want to make sure that you’re hydrated. You want to make sure that you’re not cramping up, similar to that experience in Honduras in San Pedro Sula.”
Winning not realistic?
Klinsmann maintains the United States shouldn’t be expected to win the World Cup, even if that stance is upsetting to some fans back home.
“If it’s now American or not American, I don’t know. You can correct me however you want,” the U.S. coach said Wednesday in his first news conference after arriving at the World Cup.
Klinsmann won the 1990 World Cup as a player for West Germany and coached Germany to the 2006 semifinals. He caused a stir last weekend when he was quoted by the New York Times Magazine as saying in a December interview “we cannot win this World Cup, because we are not at that level yet.”
Only eight nations have won the World Cup: Brazil (five titles), Italy (four), Germany (three), Argentina and Uruguay (two each), and England, France and Spain (one apiece).
“I think for us now, talking about winning a World Cup is just not realistic,” Klinsmann said Wednesday.
The scrimmage between the United States and Belgium has been canceled because Red Devils coach Marc Wilmots didn’t want to get caught in one of Sao Paulo’s famous traffic jams.
The closed-door session had been scheduled to take place today at the Sao Paulo Futebol Clube, where the U.S. has been training for the World Cup since Monday.