RECIFE, Brazil – For Jurgen Klinsmann, now the fun really begins.
The United States' head coach happily said goodbye to the annoying logistics of the World Cup's group stage and relished a trip to the knockout round after the Americans finished second in Group G despite Thursday's 1-0 loss to Germany at Arena Pernambuco.
The Americans will meet Group H winner Belgium in the round of 16 next Tuesday, as Klinsmann expressed relief in seeing his team advance out of the Group of Death. He was especially grateful to have the group phase, with all of its emotional twists and turns and overwhelming travel schedule, finally behind him.
"It's a good feeling because really it's just a clear picture for everyone," Klinsmann said. "You just focus on that one specific opponent that you have for your next game. There is no focus on who could be the next opponent afterwards.
"It's really just a good feeling because now we'll talk about one team to beat at a time," he added. "This is why I'm really excited about the next step."
There's no rest for a weary U.S. squad that had to travel the longest distance of any of the 32 World Cup teams here in Brazil, because more cross-country flights await it.
The Americans travel back to Sao Paulo on Thursday night and will hold a light training session on Friday at their home away from home, Sao Paulo FC's training ground. They will train there Saturday and again on Sunday morning before catching a 2½-hour flight to the northeast of Brazil, this time to begin match preparations in Salvador.
On Monday, the U.S. will go through the usual day-before-the-game routine of training at the stadium (Arena Fonte Nova) and then having Klinsmann and one or two players answer questions from the media. Kickoff for Tuesday's round of 16 match is scheduled for 5 p.m. local time (4 p.m. Eastern time).
Klinsmann and his staff will analyze the team's performance against Germany and start to put together a game plan for Belgium and its young and talented attackers such as Eden Hazard. The players will also use the coming days to recover from their collection of bumps and bruises, as just about everyone in the starting lineup is suffering from some type of ailment.
The latest casualty on Thursday was midfielder Jermaine Jones, who will have his nose examined Friday after colliding with teammate Alejandro Bedoya. The Belgium game will be 15 days since Jozy Altidore strained his left hamstring in a tournament-opening win over Ghana, but it's not likely that the forward will be able to play.
Central defender Geoff Cameron, who was rested against Germany, is expected to regain his starting spot despite Omar Gonzalez's solid performance.
"He got to kick-start his World Cup," Klinsmann said of Gonzalez, a regular starter during World Cup qualifying before an injury-marred Major League Soccer season this year. "It's very important because down the road you will have these players coming in and they will have to do their job. Omar was ready."
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