KENYA BROWN - Tuesday, July 1, 2014
A spot in the World Cup quarterfinals will be up for grabs on Tuesday when the United States national team takes on Belgium in Salvador, Brazil.
Coming off a 1-0 loss to Germany in their final group game last the week, the United States will be looking to get back to their winning ways in the round of 16 encounter.
One of the bright spots for the team is that forward Jozy Altidore has been given the all clear to play in the game after going down with a hamstring strain in the team's first game against Ghana. It is not certain whether the 24-year-old will start, but head coach Jurgen Klinsmann will need to use him.
As for the rest of the lineup, it looks like it may be a return to the original group that played in the first game against Ghana and Portugal, with midfielder Alejandro Bedoya returning after making a substitute appearance against Germany.
Meanwhile, Geoff Cameron and Omar Gonzalez could be battling over who partners Matt Besler in the center of defense. The Los Angeles Galaxy man looks to be the frontrunner after his stellar performance against the Germans while Cameron's two miscues in the United States' game against Portugal could see him coming off the bench.
The Americans know in this stage it is win or go home, so they will have to do better holding on to the ball and creating more chances against the Belgians. According to statistics from the game against Germany, the U.S. held possession 37 percent of the time and took only 4 shots. Therefore, it is going to be crucial for the midfield to up their game if the U.S. wants any chance of winning. It would not also hurt for them to take more risks compared with how they played in their group games.
In addition, the team as a whole needs to be on guard for Belgium's counterattacking capabilities and their knack for scoring goals late in the game as they showed in all three of their Group H games.
On the other side, Belgium will be coming into the game with fitness concerns.
The midfield duo of Marouane Fellaini and Moussa Dembele are suffering calf injuries, but should be ready to play. Meanwhile, captain Vincent Kompany and Thomas Vermaelen are nursing groin and hamstring injuries, which could leave the backline vulnerable to any U.S. attack.
Midfielder Steven Defour is out of the game as he received a red card in Belgium's last game against South Korea.
While the Red Devils won all three of their group games, head coach Marc Wilmots knows his team can play better. This a young team with the likes of Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne, Axel Witsel and Romelu Lukaku. However, they have failed to impress thus far at the World Cup and they will be looking to change that in Tuesday's game.
Belgium is a highly-talented team, but are only making their return to the World Cup after last playing in the tournament in 2002. The United States' advantage coming into this game is that they have the experience in playing in this tournament more recently, which they can certainly use against their opponets.
It looks like it will be an exciting yet tense game, but one that the United States does have a shot at winning.