2014 World Cup Preview: USA vs Belgium
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In case you don’t have access to a television, don’t believe in the internet, or lack the ability to hear the chants of “USA, USA, USA,” exploding throughout the nation, the United States clawed their way out of Group G and advanced to the knockout stages of the 2014 World Cup. Labeled the Group of Death, the USMNT made it out with a win over Ghana, a heartbreaking tie with Portugal, and an impressive loss to Germany. The Americans did the impossible and surpassed the expectations of everyone, including possibly themselves, with their impressive run against some of the best teams in the world.
But the group stage is done and dusted and the team’s only concern should be their next opponents, Belgium, as the knockout stages arrive on Tuesday, July 1, at 4 PM EST on ESPN.
Belgium, after coming into the 2014 World Cup as dark horses to win the tournament, have been somewhat of a disappointment by lacking the dominant performances that many top teams in the tournament already have. However, three wins in the three group stage games is still an impressive and formidable statistic. If this team is winning when it’s not playing well, imagine what the Belgians are capable of when everything comes together.
What to Watch For:
The United States is extremely lucky Vincent Kompany is likely to be unavailable for this game, because they’ve shown that they lack offensive potency when opponents have a commanding defender who also doubles as a defensive midfielder. His absence could prove key, as the United States work the ball in from the wings and try to throw as many players into the box.
Watch for both teams to start out very conservatively, but the USA to hold their composure defensively against the European team. The key to this game will be whoever scores first, so look for Clint Dempsey, Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley to shoot from range, often.
The Belgians are extremely talented in the air, so the American defense must be vigilant when clearing crosses out of the box. Thomas Muller’s goal in the 1 – 0 defeat to Germany was off a rebound just outside the box; the United States must close down potential shooters on poor clearances.
Belgium is the better team when it comes to talent, but their start to the 2014 World Cup has been less than impressive. With a leader and key run-stopper missing in Kompany and striker Romelu Lukaku potentially missing the game as well, this will be a tame Belgian squad. However, Marouane Fellaini, Dries Mertens, and Jan Vertonghen are top players who will have a major impact on the game.
These are two similar teams; this could be one of the most exciting games of the round of 16.
USA 2, Belgium 1
Taylor Sturm is a Columnist for StoppageTimeSoccer.net. Follow him on Twitter @TSturmRS, like him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.