US goalie Kasey Keller told DW-WORLD.DE about the benefit of experience, the difficulty of judging the world's top keepers and how the US team will deal with two European opponents playing close to home in group stage.
At 36, Keller is the oldest players on the US roster
Currently a regular fixture between the posts for the Bundesliga's Borussia Mönchengladbach, Keller is one of the US team's most internationally experienced players, having played in England and Spain before settling down in Germany. Keller has been named US Soccer's athlete of the year three times, most recently in 2005.
DW-WORLD.DE: You are in a group with world-class goalkeepers from the Czech Republic and Italy . As a 36-year-old goalkeeper, what is your opinion of Petr Cech, 23, and Gianluigi Buffon, 28?
Kasey Keller: I feel I'm playing as well as I've ever played. I think I've been very fortunate throughout my career with injuries -- I don't think I've ever been out longer than three weeks in my whole career. It's been a big benefit that I haven't had a knee problem or a shoulder problem. That's been a big factor is why I'm still able to play as well as I have been at the age that I am.
Italian keeper Gianluigi Buffon may improve with age
What do you think of the other two keepers in your group?
I have a lot of respect for both of them. Obviously Buffon has been around a bit longer; Cech is younger and had a great season last year for Chelsea. I think they are two of the top goalkeepers in the world.
Are goalkeepers better after they reach 30?
It's definitely changing a little bit. I think in the past experience was a factor. I think Petr Cech will be a better goalkeeper at 30 than he is right now if he stays fit and healthy, there's no question.
Who do you think is a better, Cech or Buffon?
It all comes down to form at the time. When you start to talk about the top 10 or 20 goalkeepers in the world everything rotates. Nobody is playing in the same league so it's hard to really judge.
Perhaps the World Cup is a better place to judge?
It would be just who was better at that World Cup. A lot of it depends on how your team is playing around you. How far you go in the tournament and keep doing well. A lot of the time goalkeepers can have a great game and lose 2-0. Look at our game the other day, the Bielefeld keeper had a great game; I didn't have very much to do. But he lost and I won. That's the way it goes.
Germany eliminated the USA at the 2002 World Cup
What's the secret? How do you keep your form so well?
Experience is a lot. I'm very happy with the training I'm getting with Uwe Kamps, my goalkeeping coach here at Borussia, which definitely helps. I'm staying fit, have good training and the experience to not get into bad situations very often -- that comes with a lot of games.
There are some top strikers in the Czech and Italian teams. Have you ever played against any of them?
Italy I've played against a few times at different times in my career. Obviously, the strikers change. Some of the Czech players are playing in Germany, so I've played against several of their players as well. But once again, it's down to how well are my defenders going to be playing against those players, what opportunities are they going to have. I feel confident with the players I have in front of me.
People say your group is the "group of death," and most people would choose Italy and the Czech Republic to advance, so there is comparatively less pressure for the US team.
It's a tough group. I think with the tournament being in Europe, statistically over the years, European teams have done better in the tournaments held in Europe. We know playing against two big European teams the pressure will be on them. We have enough pride in our own ability that we feel we can get through this group as well.
In your opinion, what is the US team's most powerful weapon? We're a team. We're not based on one individual holding up our team for us. We feel that we will work extremely hard, we're fast, and we'll work as a team and fight for everything.