The USA vs Belgium World Cup Round of 16 match will take place at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador on Tuesday, July 1st, at 1 PM PST (4 PM EST).
While most people didn’t expect the US to make it out of the Group of Death, I can honestly say that I wasn’t one to run for the hills. It was an arduous three matches to say the least, full of triumphs and a few failures, but now all of that can be erased as the next round approaches.
The Round of 16 was cruel to the Americans last go around, but much has changed since the team’s encounter with Ghana four years ago. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann has this team believing that they can handle any team placed in their path. The group stage pinned the US up against some tough opponents, all three of which are ranked in the top 25 in FIFA’s rankings.
For those who haven’t seen the Belgians play yet should know that they have a great deal of talent. While they are one of the youngest and most hungry teams in the tournament, the European nation didn’t look very convincing in the group stage. They scored the same amount of goals as the US; four, while they only conceded one. That is a very impressive feat, although Russia, South Korea, and Algeria don’t possess the quality of the US’ group stage opponents.
United States Team News:
The biggest question for the Americans remains to be Jozy Altidore and whether or not he’ll be fit to play. He returned to training on Friday and was jogging with the squad. This is certainly a great boost for the US, but in the event that Altidore won’t be ready to start, don’t be surprised if the Americans begin with a similar starting XI as they did with Portugal. It would make sense to continue resting Altidore in hopes of getting him fit for a potential quarterfinal encounter with Argentina.
After center back Omar Gonzalez‘s strong performance against Germany, look for the Los Angeles Galaxy man to pair up with Matt Besler in the back again. Typically, a change in the starting defense isn’t something to be played around with as a coach, but Geoff Cameron wasn’t cutting it for the US and it appears that Klinsmann’s decision to go with Gonzalez paid off.
I would personally like to see DeAndre Yedlin get the start against Belgium on the right wing, but I still think Klinsmann will start Bedoya, despite his lack of an impact on the games thus far. I’ve stated numerous times now that not only is Yedlin’s pace a nightmare for defenders, but his defensive and technical abilities as well. He has impacted both matches where he appeared in, creating excellent opportunities down the right side, including his ball in from the end line that led to Clint Dempsey scoring against Portugal.
Belgium Team News:
The Belgians have great depth in their squad, which showed in the previous match against South Korea. When manager Marc Wilmots has the ability to rest five starters, and still put players like Adnan Januzaj and Kevin Mirallas out on the field, it is clear that there is quality in that squad.
In that South Korea match, midfielder Steven Defour picked up a red card, but that won’t prove to be too costly for Belgium, as he was only starting to give rest to Chelsea man Kevin De Bruyne.
If there is one area of concern for this team, it has to be their back line. Captain Vincent Kompany has battled muscle injuries throughout the group stage and still remains in question for the clash with the US. In addition to Kompany, defender Anthony Vanden Borre has been ruled out for the remainder of the World Cup with a fractured fibula.
The US will certainly benefit from the absence of these two men, assuming Kompany can’t go, but Belgium certainly have enough quality in their subs to put out a strong lineup.
USA vs Belgium Prediction
The United States are used to being in battles, and Belgium will give them a fight for sure. The European nation is very similar to Germany, in that they keep great spells of possession and have several star players that can break down a defense. The US’ strength has been their defense thus far, but Michael Bradley and the rest of the midfield will need to hold the ball in order to relieve the pressure from the defense.
The US managed only one shot on goal against Germany. That number will likely increase against the Belgians, especially with a somewhat depleted back line. I think we’ll see more of an attacking presence from the Americans, similarly to how they played against Portugal.
Belgium aren’t a team that pressure high up the pitch, like the Germans and Ghanaians, therefore I want to see the Americans take the initiative to do the pressing. That is fully in the realm of possibilities, as we saw against a more experienced Portuguese team and even against Ghana prior to Altidore’s injury. I believe that United States will defeat Belgium by a score of 2-1.
USA vs Belgium TV Schedule
The match will be televised on ESPN, ESPN3, and Univision at 1 PM PST (4 PM EST) on Tuesday.