National Soccer Hall of Famer Eddie Pope played in three World Cup Finals (1998, 2002 and 2006) and is regarded as one of the finest defenders the country has ever produced. Pope was an integral part of the 2002 U.S. national team that advanced to the World Cup quarterfinals that year.
KwikGoal chatted with the North Carolina native, who currently works for the Major League Soccer Player’s Union, to hear his thoughts and get his perspective on the USMNT thus far in Brazil.
KG: What are your thoughts on the USA-Portugal game?
EP: It was one of those soccer games where because you get scored on last, you feel like it is a loss instead of a tie. And a tie is all it really is. The mindset from here on out is everything. Can we be mentally tough to say, it is what it is? We’re still in it! Remember, it’s a World Cup Finals, it’s supposed to be hard, really hard.
KG: After letting it all sink in, what’s the right mentality for the team to have right now?
EP: The mentality the team should have is, simple. We have four points. How many other teams have four points? How many teams are through after only two games? We’re still in position to control our own destiny in the World Cup and that’s a position you always want to be in.
KG: What about the conditions in Manaus can you relate to?
EP: In my estimation, it was similar to Korea in 2002. It was unbelievably hot. I was cramping up in the first game, although I am notorious for cramping (laughs). It was super hot. However, that group of players looked at the hot and humid conditions as an advantage to us because we had all been exposed to and played in those types of conditions previously. Our mindset was we were all prepared for the heat.
KG: Is there an advantage in there somewhere?
EP: I think so. Having a big country like America is an advantage because all the players know what that is like because of all the different climates. It should be an advantage in future World Cups. There is not a climate in the World an American player would be new to.
KG: How big of an opportunity was lost in the result?
EP: Let’s be calm and clear. You’re in a good spot. It was going to be a luxury to be through after two games and the Germany game was always going to matter. Look, you were always going to have to play three games and it was always going to matter. Bottom line is, no one before the tournament was going to say before the World Cup began that it would be a disappointment to not be advancing after two games. And that’s the case now.
KG: Having been in a similar position during your national team career, if you were on the team, what would you be saying right now to your teammates?
EP: The game vs. Germany was going to always matter. Yes, we have to play Germany. Yes, they have less travel and one extra day rest, but lets face it, it’s the World Cup. It’s supposed to be hard. We can do this!
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