The majority of the United States watched today as their men’s national team took on the mighty Germany squad. The U.S. fell to Germany 1-0 but managed to advance to the next round after Christiano Ronaldo ended Ghana’s dreams of advancing with a late goal to give Portugal the win. Ironically, Ronaldo was also the same man who set up the goal that prevented the United States from qualifying last week. Funny how these things happen.
On the flip side, Belgium just wrapped up group play with a 1-0 defeat of South Korea. They won all three of their group play games and sealed the deal as Jan Vertonghen scored the game winner despite playing with only ten men. It was an impressive display of resilience. Belgium looked shaky throughout, but for all the U.S. fans gaining a false sense of hope, know that Belgium means business.
This will be an intense match when these two teams, the United States and Belgium, take the pitch on Tuesday. It is hard to say what the outcome of this game will be based on prior results. Belgium beat the USA in a friendly match in Cleveland last May but that does not mean a whole lot. Belgium won 4-2 but two of their goals were scored by striker Christian Bentenke, who is not playing for Belgium this World Cup due to injury. The United States team also resembles nothing of what it currently looks like today. Eddie Johnson was one of the U.S. strikers and Clarence Gooden started next to Omar Gonzales at center back. Jermaine Jones, Matt Besler and Fabian Johnson all did not play in this game for the U.S. either. This time around should be very different.
Unfortunately for the United States, Belgium is a very good team that has an incredible amount of talent all over the pitch. The American midfielders will really need to step up their game if the U.S. expects to be competitive in this game. They looked very sloppy today as they had too many unforced errors. If they play similar to how they played against Germany today, the U.S. will most definitely be on their way home.
The keys for the United States in this game will be maintaining possession and attacking effectively. Having possession will limit the creativity of the Belgium midfielders and it will give their defense a much-needed reprieve. The U.S. had a record low in terms of possession during their game against Germany. The Germans had possession of the ball for 67.5 percent of the match. You can be sure Jurgen Klinsmann will be discussing that with his players this week. They need to be more efficient when they in a position to attack and work the goalkeeper. There is a possibility that Jozy Altidore will be back for the Round of 16 and the United States will need him if they have any hopes of advancing.
For Belgium, the keys will be moving the ball quickly offensively and spreading the ball out wide for cross opportunities. Belgium is extremely athletic and possesses the ability to kill opponents with their speed. With Eden Hazard and Dries Mertens creating a lot of the Belgium chances, they will be looking place through balls and win one on one battles with U.S. defenders who have been a step slow a couple of times in this World Cup. The other aspect of the game that Belgium could exploit the Americans on is the height they possess. Axel Witzel is 6’1″ and Marouane Fellaini is 6’4″. Together these two should find success in directed headers towards goal and giving the United States a lot to deal with.
Both sets of players will be looking to make a play that will announce to the world that they mean business. It should be a great game.