The USMNT will be embarking on a new and hopefully successful adventure Tuesday against Belgium as they look to advance to the quarterfinals of the World Cup for the first time since 2002. The team received big news prior to the match as they will regain the services of striker Jozy Altidore, who had to leave early on in the opening game against Ghana.
With him playing fully fit, the team can do maximum damage to the dark horses of this tournament.
The U.S. must first to shape up defensively. Whether Geoff Cameron or Omar Gonzalez starts alongside Matt Besler does not make a difference at this point. Both guys are strong in the air, smart on the ground and can push up into the midfield to help. Cameron’s big error against Portugal was a fluke and everyone should know that by now, especially him. The duo will know that they will be threatened the most on Belgium’s attacks.
The wingbacks, Fabian Johnson and Damarcus Beasley, will have to push up quite a bit to aid the attack in a 4-2-3-1 formation. The midfield will be led by Jermaine Jones, who will have the most important holding role alongside Kyle Beckerman with Michael Bradley being the general, the man in charge of distributing towards Clint Dempsey and potentially Jozy Altidore.
These are all the key guys when it comes to making something happen for their country.
As for Belgium, this is a team that can potentially win the entire tournament with the right moves on the field. The U.S. will not be easy, but the Belgians did rip them 4-2 in the United States the last time these two nations met. They play in a 4-2-3-1 formation, which enables them to build through the middle and down the wings. Their captain and center-back, Vincent Kompany, is doubtful due to injury, but they have veteran Daniel van Buyten who is more than eager to start in his place.
The midfield is stacked with the likes of Axel Witsel, Eden Hazard and Marouane Fellaini, just to name a few. Their front line can be led by youngster Divock Origi or the well-known Romelu Lukaku, with the former scoring a goal already with the latter’s preseason form nowhere to be found. However, that could change Tuesday.
On paper, the Belgians are vastly more talented and experienced at playing soccer at the highest of levels in Europe. However, the one thing the Americans have over them is the undeniable belief at overcoming the odds stacked against them. This is a game that they can definitely win if they can close down the flanks, recover on time, and give that extra effort when it comes to defending inside and outside of the area.
Going forward, they will have to capitalize on their chances if they want to beat a great keeper in Thibaut Courtois.
Prediction: United States 2, Belgium 1
Call it wishful thinking if you will, but the Americans are more disciplined on defense and can turn on the engine to attack when they please. This is a realistic scoreline that can be reflect the actual outcome.