In advance of the US-Belgium game tomorrow, almost everyone has an opinion on the game and both teams from a Stars and Stripes perspective. Very few have been able to get the Belgian perspective, so here’s an interview about the game tomorrow with Belgian blogger and writer Chris Mayer — better known as the Belgian Waffle.
Matt Lichtenstadter (ML): Why have Belgium been such slow starters at the World Cup?
Chris Mayer (CM): I wouldn’t necessarily say they’ve been slow starters, just maybe in comparison to what people expected from looking at the squad on paper given their quality. Only Daniel van Buyten had any World Cup experience prior to the tournament and though a lot of the squad have grown through the ranks together, I think it’s expected that they take their time to find their rhythm. The fact they’ve managed to secure three wins without really getting into gear should worry the rest of the competition.
ML: With the injuries to Kompany, Vermaelen and Vanden Borre, what’s Belgium’s best back line?
CM: The number of injuries to the defense has been concerning especially since there aren’t any natural full-backs left now with Vanden Borre out for the tournament. The best option would be Alderweireld, Kompany, Van Buyten, Vertonghen. If Kompany and Vermaelen aren’t fit, Nicolas Lombaerts could be given the nod.
ML: Why has Romelu Lukaku struggled so mightily so far?
CM: It’s been a bit of shock. Christian Benteke was Wilmots’ preferred man in qualifying for the way he brought others into play. Lukaku just doesn’t have that relationship yet and is running out of time to find it especially since Divock Origi has made great cameos in each game. However, I think most of it is down to Lukaku’s decision making; he’s not running onto the end of passes nearly quickly enough in my opinion, nor is his positioning great. It’s all very disjointed.
ML: What US players or tactical decisions that Jurgen Klinsmann may make frighten you the most?
CM: I think the fact that Klinsmann has been very adaptable during games should worry Wilmots. He’s made crucial changes in each of the group games in order to get something out of the game. While this didn’t work versus Germany, it did in the other two games. Other things Belgium might want to think about, at least from my perspective as someone who’s seen USA at this tournament, include Fabian Johnson getting forward and running at Belgium’s full-backs and also Aron Johannsson running at Van Buyten if he gets the chance from the bench. Van Buyten is not the quickest of centre-backs.