With less than two weeks until the World Cup kicks off in Brazil, World Soccer Talk spoke with U.S. Men’s National Team’s Michael Bradley and Graham Zusi on their preparations for the World Cup, giving kids the opportunity to play soccer, and, for Zusi, what it’s like to become a saint in Mexico.
First up is the interview with USMNT and Toronto midfielder Michael Bradley:
World Soccer Talk (WST): Do you have a sense yet of what system and formation you’ll be playing with in Brazil or is Jurgen Klinsmann still working that out?
Michael Bradley (MB): “We work everyday trying to improve and trying to tweak little things and make sure the relationships on the field are as good and as strong as possible. We’ve played a few games before playing 4-4-2. For a long time under Jurgen, we played 4-2-3-1. At the end of the day, it’s down to the players on the field to make the game. There’s always going to be little details that need to be worked on and talked about especially tactics. At the end of it, it’s the players and not the system you attack.”
WST: Looking back at the 2010 World Cup, do you ever think about that disallowed goal against Slovenia and what the referee was thinking?
MB: “Obviously at the time, we all were so sure it was a goal. It was an emotional night being down 2-0 and we fought back to 2-2 and we deserved to win. Unfortunately it’s part of the game sometimes and we were able to deal with it in a calm and positive way and in the end we got our reward especially against Algeria.”
WST: How are you enjoying Toronto? Do you think there’s a chance you would return to Europe in the future?
MB: “I’m very happy in Toronto, in all things. The club and the city has been everything I’ve hoped and expected it would be. As far as the future you never know, and understand that doors open and doors close and the most important thing is controlling what you’re about as a person each and everyday.”
WST: How ready are you as a team to head to Brazil?
MB: “It’s definitely getting to the home stretch. Everybody is excited. This is what we’ve been working towards for really almost four years. To finally be there, to really be able to feel the games on the horizon and to know the World Cup is just around the corner we’re all really really excited.”
WST: Tell me about your involvement with the Gatorade Unreal Around the World Campaign.
MB: “It’s a really cool initiative that Gatorade started, giving kids around the world the opportunity to compete and show what they’re training at everyday, what they’re working on and eventually win a chance to spend some time and train in some of the biggest clubs in the world. I think when you talk about kids and having dreams and giving everything to achieve those dreams, an opportunity like this gives them that chance. When you talk about competing against kids from all around the world and then eventually having unreal and unbelievable opportunities to tour around the world, I think it’s a really cool opportunity.”
Next is the interview with USMNT and Sporting Kansas City midfielder Graham Zusi:
World Soccer Talk (WST): What was your reaction to being appointed “Saint Zusi” in Mexico?
Graham Zusi (GZ): “It’s pretty funny to me. Obviously the way that happened in the game down in Panama was us trying to finish the campaign on a high note. We weren’t thinking about Mexico and we weren’t thinking about Panama, we were just thinking about the way we were finishing up our qualifying. We did so on a high note and sometimes soccer is a crazy sport and it’s a cool game.”
WST: You had a great finish against Azerbaijan. How does that help going forward against Turkey and Nigeria then when you head to Brazil?
GZ: “We’re using these games to really get our momentum going into Brazil and these three teams are great opponents to get us ready. Turkey is a very quality side and they just had a great result against Honduras. Nigeria is probably the closest thing we can get against Ghana in that first game. We’re taking these games very seriously and looking to end this series on a high note.”
WST: How are you preparing for your first World Cup? Anything special you’re doing?
GZ: “Just trying to soak it all in, I can ask some of the veteran guys who have been there before and their message has been that, ‘Just trying to enjoy it, you’ve gotten to a point in your career where playing these high profile teams shouldn’t be an issue.’ I’m just looking to enjoy it and looking to get good results as well.
WST: What is your involvement in the Gatorade Unreal Around the World Campaign and can you talk a bit about it?
GZ: “Basically I’m out here with a bunch of kids who have the opportunity to do this awesome trip around the world through Gatorade. They can sign up at gatoradefootball.com and submit their story. And if they win this contest, they’re traveling around the world and get the opportunity to live like a professional athlete and train at some of the best clubs around the world — going down to South America and Europe and see what it’s like to be a professional soccer player. It’s a really great event and an amazing opportunity for these kids.”