Third Time the Charm For U.S. Against Belgium?
The United States lost to Belgium in 2011 and 2013. Can the squad defeat the talented squad in 2014? Who knows? But Clint Dempsey, Graham Zusi, Jurgen Klinsmann, and the gang will try.
BY Noah Davis PostedRECIFE, Brazil—The United States men's national team accomplished its first goal, which was to advance into the knockout round of the World Cup. Now, the squad has a bigger task: take on a Belgium team that finished first in Group H and boasts an entire lineup of world-class talent. It's a more difficult match than the one against Ghana four years ago that a tired American side lost in overtime. But it gives the red, white, and blue a focus it might have lacked during the first three matches. "Everything is fresh again," the U.S. captain said. "It doesn't matter what you've done in the group stages. It's what you're going to do on that day. I think there's more pressure to that game because you either stay or go home. You want to keep staying." "It's that balance of managing that game in terms of trying to go for the game but at the same time making sure you stay in it as well." While Dempsey sounded excited for the round of 16, it might be manager Jurgen Klinsmann who was looking forward to the knockout stage the most. "As we know by the past, once the group is done another tournament starts," he said. "There's a very clear picture in front of you. You have to win the game, no matter how. You have to win it extra time. You have to win it in a penalty shootout. You prepare for one game at a time." The Americans have a recent history with Belgium. In the third match of Klinsmann's tenure, the European side won 1-0 in Brussels and followed that up with a 4-2 victory two years later in a match that wasn't as close as the scoreline would indicate. The teams were supposed to have a scrimmage in Sao Paolo on June 12, but Belgium bailed due to traffic. Still, the Stars and Stripes must have learned a few things, especially if they play a high defensive line they will get burned. Badly. Dempsey wouldn't say much about the team that the U.S. will play in the next round. "They are a top side with a lot of quality players," he told media after the 1-0 loss to Germany. "You have to make sure that you stay compact defensively when they have the ball. They have players that can make a difference in terms of running at you." "At the same time, we have to be more on the front foot. Play our game. Play more of the game that we did against Portugal than we did today. Be a little bit more confident in possession. Show more quality in the attacking third." That was a theme echoed by his teammate Graham Zusi. "In the first five minutes of the game, impose yourself," he said about the lesson the U.S. learned on Thursday night when it gave the Germans too much respect in the opening minutes. "Step on their toes a bit and get in their face. I think once we realized that we could play, you saw it turn around. We know that we can now. It's just a matter of doing it early on." Or, put another way courtesy of Klinsmann: "I'm really excited about the next step.
June 27, 2014
June 27, 2014