Should the USA Fear Belgium?
Since finishing on top of their group in qualification, Belgium has been somewhat under whelming. Despite finishing 2013 with back-to-back losses, this year they have had a good record in terms of wins and losses but the results are not as impressive as some might think. As of their final group game, they have a record of 5-0-1 this calendar year against relative minnows like Tunisia and Algeria (plus an unofficial friendly against Luxembourg) and only one of those games has been won by more than a single goal. So, should the US team be remotely afraid of Belgium?
Many of the experts were picking Belgium to not only top their group at this World Cup, but to run away with it as well. While they did finish top with all 9 points, they have hardly looked like world champions. In their first game they were trailing to Algeria before two goals in the last 20 minutes bailed them out. In their second game they left it until stoppage time to score against a very weak Russian squad that failed to progress to the Round of 16, despite being managed by Fabio Capello. In their last group game they only managed 1 goal against the weakest team in the group, South Korea, who also failed to make it to the Round of 16.
Much of the nervousness displayed by some American fans stems from the fact that Belgium has beaten the USA in the last two meetings. In September of 2011 the USA played in Brussels in what was Jurgen Klinsmann’s third game in charge. It rained for most of the game and the USA turned in a soggy performance and lost 1-0 on a wonder goal from Nicolas Lombaerts. More recently in May of 2013 the USA played Belgium in Cleveland and were run out of the building 4-2 on two goals from Christian Benteke and one apiece from Marouane Fellaini and Kevin Kirallas.
It is not all doom and gloom for the USA as Belgium will be without Benteke as he is out for the tournament with a torn ACL. Belgium will also be missing Steven Defour who picked up a silly red card in their last match. On the US side, there is hope that Jozy Altidore will return from a hamstring injury he picked up against Ghana and has caused him to miss the last two games.
Jurgen Klinsmann has instilled a mentality in this team that they should not fear anybody. The team has bought into his philosophy and has showed that they aren’t afraid of anybody. Road wins in Italy and Mexico, a draw against Portugal where they completely shut Cristiano Ronaldo down, and a good showing against Germany speak to that. There is no real reason to think that the USA will fear Belgium. Belgium may have the better results and the higher seeding going into the Round of 16, but in truth the USA has played better up to this point.