USA has lofty goals at World Cup

U.S. coach Juergen Klinsmann, right, celebrates with teammates U.S. coach Juergen Klinsmann, right, celebrates with teammates during a Group G football match against Ghana at the Dunas Arena in Natal during the 2014 FIFA World Cup on June 16, 2014. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Carl De Souza

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SAO PAULO, Brazil -- Buoyed by its World Cup win over Ghana, a more confident United States is setting its sights even higher against struggling and ailing Portugal. The Americans aren't thinking of earning just a draw and one point in Manaus Sunday, they want a victory and all three points.

A Group G win over Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal, coupled with a Germany triumph over Ghana, would boost them into the second round.

Lofty goals for a team that was considered a long shot to survive the Group of Death.

"We have the confidence to go into that game and say, 'We're here, we're here. We want to beat you. We want to get to the next round,' " coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. "We're not going to Manaus to defend a 1-1 or a nil-nil [draw]. We want to go there and win this game."

A second group win would be historic. The only other time the USA recorded two opening-round victories was at the first World Cup in 1930. After celebrating the win, Klinsmann stressed the Ghana game was out of the players' minds.

"That's why we wanted to come back right away after the game here to Sao Paulo, and make it clear that the only thing we talk about is Portugal," he said.

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With Portugal, No. 4 in the recent FIFA rankings, on the receiving end of a 4-0 pasting by Germany, it remains to be seen how the Europeans will respond.

Ronaldo is fully fit to play against the U.S., a Portugal teammate said. Ronaldo needed an ice pack for his troublesome left knee during Wednesday's training session.

"Cristiano is 100 percent fit to play. Every match, if he starts to play, it is because he is fit to play, he's ready to play," backup goaltender Beto said.

Portugal's defense is in tatters. Pepe, red-carded vs. Germany, is banned from the U.S. match, and Fabio Coentrao (thigh injury) has been ruled out of the tournament.

"It's a difficult situation for them. They are with their backs against the wall," Klinsmann said. "It makes it even more difficult to get a result, but that's what you want. That's what a World Cup is about. We also have the chance to win to hopefully qualify. It can't get any better."

USA can't take things lightly.

"Portugal is going to be a tough game," midfielder Alejandro Bedoya said. "It's football, anything can happen. Based on past World Cups, sometimes four points isn't even enough [to advance from the group stage], so I don't think we've gone that far to think that if we get a draw, we are safe in the group."

Training was canceled Wednesday, giving the players a rare day off.

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"The cool thing is . . . having our family and friends here, some of them are coming along for the ride and sharing this experience," Bedoya said. "In Natal, we were able to spend some time with them. That is very important, because mentally, you can't just be focused the whole time. You need some time to wind down."

With AP

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