Tonight Belgium face USA in the last 16 of the World Cup competition. The Belgium team go into the match undefeated in the tournament after late substitutes and late goals have sealed wins over Algeria 2-1, Russia 1-0 and South Korea 1-0. Meanwhile, the USA come into the match after narrowly beating Portugal on goal difference to secure the second spot in Group G.
Date: Tuesday 1st July 2014
Time: 9pm (British Summertime)
Place: Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador
The USA are too confident…
The Americans are too confident in my opinion. But now lets move onto the Football part of this article.
*Pause for laughs*
Jurgen Klinsmann is the USA head coach and former Germany and Tottenham legend. He has filled his team with confidence despite only making the last 16 by the skin of their teeth. He has even changed the flights of his entire team to fly back to the US on the 16th of July – implying that they will make it to the final. He firmly believes that USA can go all the way.
Its all very strange to hear Americans talk about football or ‘soccer’ so confidently. A friend of mine, Sella Gannot, is a German footballer currently playing professionally in the US and he told me: “Success for Americans must come fast, the same way as their food is ordered and their coffee is refilled.”
I’m trying to get my head round this. American Soccer? It seems crazy. The fans have been following the mantra of “I Believe” and Anchorman actor Will Ferrell turned up at a bar before their last game to pump them up.
Belgium vs USA Line-up
Here is the probable Belgium World Cup line-up:
The big question for Marc Wilmots is whether to stick with Romelu Lukaku or take a chance on previously unknown teenager Divock Origi who has shown a lot of promise in the group stages. However, after much debate, it sounds like Everton man Lukaku will be the starting striker. Wilmots is keen to build Lukaku’s confidence again after two lacklustre performances. If Lukaku can get back to his best, it could be the difference between Belgium reaching the final or crashing out early. And if Lukaku doesn’t perform against USA, he will again likely be replaced by Origi in the 55th minute who will play with confidence. So its a good position to be in.
I don’t see Januzaj or Mirallas starting in this game after failing to impress against South Korea so I reckon that Mertens will partner Hazard on the wings. Fellaini will likely start over recent strong performances along with Axel Witsel and Kevin Du Bruyne in the centre of midfield.
Unfortunately, centre-backs Tomas Vermaelen and Vincent Kompany both face late fitness tests after picking up injuries during the tournament. But being such a crucial match, I don’t see Vince the Prince missing out on this one.
With regards to the USA team, ex-Spurs and Fulham man Clint Dempsey is the only real player who poses a threat to Belgium progressing to the next stage. The American has been playing as a ‘false nine’ – a midfielder who plays as a lone-striker. And thats not because the USA don’t have strikers – its just that Clint is better than them, even if he’s not in his strongest position. Another potential threat is Sunderland striker Jozy Altidore who faces a late fitness test after hurting his hamstring against Ghana. The beastly forward holds up the ball well and will be a match physically for centre back Kompany and Van Buyten should he start.
After Belgium have won their first three games in unconvincing fashion, the average football fan would fancy the USA to cause an upset. But whether Belgium have won easily or not, the Belgium team have not lost a competitive game in the 2 years that Marc Wilmots has been in charge. The last time these two teams met in a friendly in May 2013, the Belgians were victorious winning 4-2. Interestingly, Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois has not tasted defeat in the last 20 games where he has played in goal. So whilst Belgium haven’t battered their opponents the way that fans were expecting them to, one thing is for sure: Belgium are hard to beat.
Our other opponents such as Algeria and Korea have played so deep that Belgium couldn’t beat them on the break the way they like to. This has led to less goals and less fluidity. But in a game where both teams are going for it, like I expect this one to, the game will be much more open and the goal-scoring opportunities will be frequent. I expect more goals from Belgium and I think this will be the game where they show what they can really do.
Prediction Belgium 3 – 1 USA
Belgium are 20/1 to win 3-1 over the USA
Fellaini is 20/1 to be the first scorer!
By Daniel Tannenbaum
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