By Mark Gleeson
FLORIANOPOLIS, Brazil, Feb 19 (Reuters) - United States coach Juergen Klinsmann believes his side will turf out Germany or Portugal in the first round of the World Cup in Brazil in June.
"Our team has matured a lot over the last couple of years and we are going to give them a big, big fight," he told reporters at a FIFA pre-World Cup workshop on Wednesday.
"We are expecting to go to the knockout stage, that means Germany, Portugal and Ghana will have to fight it out for the other spot (from Group G).
"We've come through a tough qualifying process where we proved our capability. We have a lot of good players," said the former Germany coach who led his home country to third spot at the 2006 finals.
Klinsmann shrugged off the extensive travel his squad would have to undertake in Brazil but said he was worried the fans would not be able to watch all of their matches.
"I think that for a team to travel long distances at the World Cup is not that difficult because you are well taken care of with charter flights and road escorts," he added.
"It might be more difficult for the fans to go from one place to the other.
"We are going to have the biggest fan group ever from the U.S. going to Brazil. We have amazing fans so hopefully they are going to be all right."
The Americans meet Ghana in Natal, Portugal in Manaus and Germany in Recife, arguably the toughest schedule of any of the 32 finalists.
There are no direct flights from the U.S. to Natal. The city is on the eastern tip of Brazil, closer to Africa than North America, and travel from New York through Sao Paulo or Rio de Janeiro will take 15 hours or more.
"We all expect an amazing World Cup in the country of the five-times champions," said Klinsmann. (Editing by Tony Jimenez; email@example.com; +27 82 8257807; Reuters Messaging: firstname.lastname@example.org; To sign up for our Global Sports Forum chatroom, click on https://forms.thomsonreuters.com/global_sports_forum)