The big match of the week is here for the U.S. This is their chance to move on to the Quarter-finals for the second time in their history having finished eighth back in the 2002 World Cup. For Belgium, they are hoping to move on for the first time since their fourth place finish back in 1986.
Belgium vs USA – Tuesday, July 1 @ 4pm:
According to Bovada Belgium are slight favorites at 21/20 (2.05) while the United States is listed at 13/5 (3.60) while a draw is at 5/2 (3.50). It is a narrow one and certainly a match that could go either way.
Neither team truly impressed in the group stages, but the teamwork seen in the U.S. team carried them through while Belgium seemed to stumble through more than anything. Both teams scored 4 in their respective groups while Belgium allowed just 1 goal compared to the Americans who allowed 4.
However, the United States progressed out of the most difficult group in the World Cup while Belgium squeaked past three of the easiest opponents. Belgium has yet to score a goal any earlier than the 70th minute and has had to play much more defensively than most would have expected. This is a team of very young and inexperienced players when it comes to international tournaments. There is a high amount of expectations on this Belgium team and they are led by a manager who has not done well tactically so far.
On the other side of the pitch is Jurgen Klinsmann who has done very well in setting up his team tactically in all three matches. So far 3 of the 4 goals they have allowed came from defensive errors or lapses. This is not something that can be accounted for and the U.S. did much better against Germany despite the loss.
There have been times when they have looked frail and sloppy going forward and too often their attacks break down in midfield. While Michael Bradley does work hard, he is too often at fault for giving the ball away or playing loose and sloppy passes, but there really is nobody else in this team to take that role from him.
A massive relief for the U.S. comes in the form of the return of their striker, Jozy Altidore. His ability to lead the line for the USMNT is something that few fans of Sunderland or the Premier League will recognize. Whether he starts or not is the question for this one. He is a starter, but coming back from an injury it might be best to bring him in off the bench. After all, it has been the World Cup of substitutes with 26 goals scored by substitutes.
My prediction for this one is a United States win and one that could go as far as penalty kicks. Belgium has looked beatable throughout all three of their matches and have relied on a lot of luck to get where they are against opponents who do not have the same quality that they do. The U.S. is a team that plays well together and will always put in a team effort. I feel that this will make the difference and that the United States will be advancing to the quarterfinals.
Belgium does have some potent attacking players, but they have all struggled to coalesce as a team and put together a truly solid match. Eden Hazard will be a key player, but the U.S. has already dealt with dangerous players throughout their group.
In the end, I will not be at all surprised to see this one go 1-1 or even 0-0 and end in penalties. Both teams have outstanding goalkeepers in Courtois and Howard and it will not be easy to score on either of them.
Possible Starting Lineups:
Belgium (4-2-3-1): Courtois; Vertonghen, Kompany, van Buyten, Alderweireld; Witsel, Fellaini; Hazard, de Bruyne, Mertens; Origi
United States (4-4-1-1) Howard; Beasley, Besler, Gonzalez, Johnson; Zusi, Beckerman, Bradley, Jones; Dempsey, Altidore