USA Will Need More Than Faith To Advance


Jun 28, 2014; Sao Paulo, BRAZIL; USA head coach Jurgen Klinsmann reacts during team training at Sao Paulo FC. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Belgium has not looked convincing in their group matches, despite finishing 3-0-0. Marc Wilmot’s side advanced thanks to a come-from-behind 2-1 victory over Algeria, a last minute 1-0 winner over Russia, and an ugly 1-0 win over South Korea. Judging by Belgium’s performances, USA has a reason to believe they got this match in the bag. Despite losing 4-2 to the Red Devils in a friendly last year, Jurgen Klinsmann’s side knows they have improved significantly since the last meeting. The US is also aware that this Belgium side hasn’t been playing like the same team that scored four goals on them. Still the Yanks have a reason to be cautious.

May 29, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Belgium forward Kevin Mirallas (7) celebrates his first-half goal with forward Romelu Lukaku against the USA at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

The Red Devils still boasts world class talent who can change the tide of a match in a matter of seconds. Eden Hazard hasn’t been playing up to people’s expectations, but his assist to Divock Origi in the Russia match pretty much explained why he needed to stay on the pitch. Turn a blind eye on this winger, and he’ll create a dangerous shot at goal.

However, the likes of Eden Hazard, Kevin de Bruyne, and Thibeaut Courtois shouldn’t deter the Americans from straying from their original gameplan. TheYanks’ offense are overjoyed by the news that Belgium’s key defender Thomas Vermaelen will be out due to injury while captain Vincent Kompany remains doubtfulHowever, the Americans should be wary that their defense hasn’t been as steady as the Alamo and must consider the risks of pushing forward. Will the US aggressively push forward or play behind the ball? With Jozy Altidore said to be fully fit, perhaps the former is likely possible.

Jun 28, 2014; Sao Paulo, BRAZIL; USA forward Clint Dempsey (left), midfielder Alejandro Bedoya (center) and midfielder Julian Green during team training at Sao Paulo FC. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

"Projected Starting XIUSA: Howard, Beasley, Besler, Cameron, Johnson, Beckermann, Jones, Zusi, Bradley, Dempsey, AltidoreBelgium: Courtois, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Lombaerts, Ciman, Witsel, Fellaini, De Bruyne, Hazard, Mirallas, Lukaku."

Keys for Belgium

– Don’t commit reckless fouls! Belgium’s depth is paper thin with three players injured and four players booked with a yellow card from a previous match.

– Attack from the right! Most teams in the group stages caught Fabian Johnson out of position and attacked from the right flank. Belgium must expose the space in the right and use the brilliant play of Hazard to create chances on offense.

– Control the midfield! As recurring problem for USA throughout the World Cup was their poor midfield play. USA’s attacking chances have been few due to their inability to hold possession in the midfield. If Belgium exposes the midfield, they’ll surely take a load of pressure off their defense.

Jun 28, 2014; Sao Paulo, BRAZIL; USA forward Jozy Altidore reacts on the bench during team training at Sao Paulo FC. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Keys for United States

– Don’t start Altidore if he’s not 100%. Memories of the “fully recovered” Diego Costa leaving early in the Champions League final due to an aggravated hamstring kept playing in my head when I read on rumors about Jozy’s chances of playing. Lets hope the USA learned from Atleti’s mistakes and not let an early substitution cost them.

– Aggressively attack the box. Belgium’s defense is thin due to injury and discplinary issues. The USA must aggressively get in the opposing box and do what they can to 1. score (duh) 2. fatigue the backline 3. Get someone sent off for a reckless challenge. The once revered Belgium defense is in it’s most weakene state and the Americans have to take advantage of this opportunity.

– Big game from Michael Bradley needed. If there’s a time when Michael Bradley can step up, it’s now. His performance against Germany is a major improvement from his Ghana showing, but everyone knows that Bradley is capable of doing even more. An active and composed Bradley will be the reason why USA can outplay the Red Devils.

Key Battles for the Match

– Dempsey vs Vertonghen – Chances are Dempsey will play lone striker for the US. Despite scoring a goal against Portugal, Dempsey has struggled mightily in that position and often looked stranded. Vertonghen has a yellow card from a prior match carried over into this match and doesn’t want to risk getting banned for the next match. If Dempsey manages to win the ball in a dangerous position, he shouldn’t hesitate to challenge his former Tottenham teammate and create his own shot at goal.

– Johnson vs Hazard – Johnson should follow up on his performance against Germany and put all his energy on the defensive end if he wants to provide any resistance against Hazard.

– Lukaku vs Cameron – Geoff Cameron must replicate his performance against Ghana and avoid getting caught ball-watching. Lukaku has been struggling throughout this tournament, but there’s no reason to doubt that he can breakout agaisnt the US.

"PredictionsThe round of 16 has been everything but unpredictable as the favored teams advanced to the quarterfinals. Expect the USA to be the only underdogs to advance. Belgium has struggled with their cohesiveness in a relatively easy group, and it’s unlikely they’ll find that groove against the battle-tested US side. The Americans will fight their way to a one-goal lead and will force Belgium to work in orchestrating an attack, let alone hold possession. Late game frustrations and fatigue will be the end for Belgium by the 90th minute."

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