USA and Belgium will meet in a World Cup 2014 round of 16 match on Tuesday, July 1.
This match is a tough one to call. Belgium have the stars — Thibaut Courtois, Vincent Kompany, Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Adnan Januzaj are top players playing for top sides — while USA seems to function better as a team.
While possessing a “golden” generation, Belgium have failed to impress at the World Cup so far. The Red Devils may have won all their Group H matches, but they did so against arguably “lesser” opposition, and in no swashbuckling style. And none of the above mentioned stars have scored a goal yet in the tournament. Worse, Kompany, their captain, is injured, and may not even make the bench for the game.
The USA, on the other hand, are a motley collection of youth and experience. What they lack in flair, they make up with good tactical positioning and discipline on the pitch. Jurgen Klinsmann clearly has the tactical nous, has coached his side well, and has maybe even rubbed on a fraction of German “clinical” football into the USMNT (Clint Dempsey, John Brooks, and Jermaine Jones all scored crucial goals when the U.S. needed them most).
If Hazard, Lukaku, Januzaj etc. rediscover their scoring boots and turn up the style, USA will be in for a world of hurt. If they fail to show up, which looks highly likely, expect Clint “Captain America” Dempsey to bag the winning goal for the Stars and Stripes.
Prediction: 1-0 to USA.
Here is how the teams might form up:
Here are some odds to win for the match.
See an AP story on Belgium.
5 Things to Know About Belgium Ahead of US Clash
MOGI DAS CRUZES, Brazil (AP) — If Belgium has a reputation for self-indulgence because of its love of chocolate and beer, it is time to look at its World Cup squad and admire discipline, stamina and determination.
So far, this has been a hard team to appreciate despite its perfect group record ahead of Tuesday’s clash with the United States.
Here are 5 things to know about the Belgium team.
TOUGH DEFENSE: Belgium didn’t concede a single goal in open play during the group stage. Talk about a hermetic seal. It has Thibaut Courtois, at 22, already one of the top goalkeepers around. He anchored Atletico Madrid to the Spanish league title and also the Champions League final. Playing ahead of him is Vincent Kompany, who led Manchester City to two of the last three Premier League titles. And amazingly at 36, Daniel Van Buyten is still one of the standout defenders at the World Cup.
“KAMPFSCHWEIN” COACH: If you are looking for fighting spirit, coach Marc Wilmots fits the bill. Such was the toughness of his attitude and the challenges he made as a player with Schalke in the Bundesliga, the working class fan base immediately took a liking to him and called him Kampfschwein — which translates as fighting boar. Now aged 45, that determination survives. As a coach, he goes looking for victories at the World Cup whether they involve beautiful football or not. His team’s three one-goal victories have so far proven it to be the right strategy.
EDEN HAZARD: The playmaker has huge expectations to live up to. At 23, he is already among a handful of European players with global appeal. He is now the creative genius at Chelsea and is seeking to emulate that for Belgium at the World Cup. So far, the results have been mixed. He has been decisive in both matches he played in, providing the winning assist late in the game each time, in a 1-0 win over Russia and a 2-1 victory against Algeria. But he has yet to take the mantle of leadership in the team and this is what Wilmots will be looking for against the United States.
SPOILT FOR STRIKERS?: Don’t be fooled by the measly four goals from three games, Belgium does have its share of good strikers. Christian Benteke was supposed to be the first choice for Wilmots, but the Aston Villa striker ruptured his Achilles tendon in April. No worries. There’s also Romelu Lukaku, the Everton forward. Despite a sterling preparation campaign and key goals in qualifying, he has been a bitter disappointment so far in Brazil. Wilmots went looking for an alternative, and found one. Divock Origi, at 19, has been crucial. He scored the winner against Russia and provided the shot which allowed Jan Vertonghen to tap in the winner against South Korea. Now, Origi is a fan favorite to start against the United States.
MATCH REVISITED: Since Wilmots and his U.S. counterpart Jurgen Klinsmann get on well, the team had planned to play a training match in Sao Paulo just days before the start of their campaigns. The threat of strikes and traffic jams forced Wilmots to reconsider and it was called off at the last moment. Now they meet will meet in Salvador on Tuesday. But this will be anything but a gentle practice match.