SCOTT PETERSON - Tuesday, July 1, 2014
USA v Belgium. A place in the quarters awaits.
We've heard all the clichés: it's a new tournament, now the real World Cup begins, anything can happen, etc.
When it comes down to it, it's painfully simple: Win and go on. Lose and go home.
We've played Belgium twice in the Klinsmann era, coming up a goal short in 2011 and were manhandled in 2013 4-2. But it's a new tournament, now the real World Cup begins where anything can happen.
Here are our staff picks:
I am predicting a hard fought but ultimately 2-1 loss to Belgium. The U.S. team will play well at times but fatigue with a short midfield bench will prove to be the squad's undoing. Still, it gives some reason for hope and optimism heading into next cycle
Getting to the knockout stage means that anything can happen. The United States should be rested and ready to take on Belgium - with a hopefully fit Jozy Altidore. The Red Devils may be the stronger side, but I have a sneaky feeling that the U.S. is due for a win after losing to them in the past two games. Just like at the roulette table, I'm betting on Red, White and Blue. USA 2, Belgium 1.
I have been down on the US team in all of my predictions so far. While the Yanks have continuously proved me wrong, I still am picking against them in this one. Belgium hasn't looked its best yet at this tournament but the team's exceptional talent can't be ignored. The US will battle but Belgium will get yet another late winner. Like against Germany it will be a 1-0 loss for the Americans and the wait to get past the Round of 16 again will have to wait at least four more years.
Through three games, the US has proven that it is larger than the sum of its parts: winning when it shouldn't have, losing when it shouldn't have and getting a result (sort of) against a veritable powerhouse. Conversely, Belgium has thus far proven that it's less than the sum of its parts. The Belgians do, however, possess excellent individual players that have simply yet to gel. This one's too close to call. Too close that is until the x-factor smacks you in the face like a spinning back fist: Chuck Norris > Jean-Claude van Damme. US 2 Belgium 1.
I was there last May in Cleveland when the Belgians spanked the United States, and while the Red Devils haven't necessarily impressed at this World Cup so far, it's an image that can't get out of my mind. If the Belgians can click the way they did that day, the Yanks will be hard-pressed to hold them off well enough to get a win. The U.S. loses, 3-1, and thus Klinsmann and Co. turn the page toward Russia 2018.
I think the US will be pressed defensively, with Belgium throwing multiple counters focused around Dries Mertens and Eden Hazard. Can the US slow down Romelu Lukaku? He's a completely different physically player who moves with as much pace as the best strikers. I predicted Belgium to win the World Cup, but why not the US? They win 2-0.
Screw it. I've resisted drinking the koolaid all tournament and look how far it's gotten me. Belgium has the talent to make the final but they refuse to run on all gears. We've got Jermaine Jones who has found his extra gears. Michael Bradley is about ready to shift into full gear. Belgium can beat even the world's best on any given day. We can beat those teams that can beat the world's best when we're having a really good day. We're going to win. It will take overtime, but we're going to win. 3-1 after 120 minutes.