IRENE, South Africa – It’s been a difficult journey for Landon Donovan, as he explained Wednesday night while tearing up after the US’ victory over Algeria.
And he’s not about to let it go.
Donovan says he has never been more prepared for a tournament than for this World Cup, and the US star is keenly aware that the planets may be aligning ahead of the team’s Round of 16 match against Ghana.
“It’s not a failure if we don’t win Saturday,” Donovan told reporters at US base camp on Thursday. “But there’s such a massive opportunity to do something so much more special. And I really want to emphasize that to everybody and make sure we understand that.”
The US is ravenously following this World Cup like never before, thanks to ESPN’s massive promotion and the Americans’ flair for the dramatic so far in the tournament. Donovan’s decisive goal against Algeria was celebrated from coast to coast, and has been fodder for non-traditional media outlets from The Colbert Report to TMZ.com.
Donovan said he’s aware of the sensation back home, and also of the path opening up ahead of the Americans to add to the drama. Should the US defeat Ghana, they will reach the quarterfinals for the second time since 2002, the furthest they have advanced in a modern World Cup. That would set up a clash between the winner of Uruguay and South Korea in the semifinals, which would be an epic achievement.
“We’ve always said [our goal was to] get out of our group and we’d go from there,” Donovan continued. “Now we feel like we can compete and beat any team in the world. Saturday happens to be Ghana; we’re going to throw everything we can at them.”
To a degree, Donovan thinks the pressure is off the US now that they have advanced to the knockout rounds. And the goal becomes far simpler, he said.
“It’s one game,” he explained. “You lose and you go home. There’s no ramifications of other games, other results, anything else – you just worry about Saturday’s game.”
And from there, Donovan continued, “Every game is like a final. I just can’t emphasize enough how big this opportunity is, and we need to take advantage of it.”
MLSsoccer.com managing editor Jonah Freedman is in South Africa all this month.