Belgium vs USA Preview
Belgium have lived up to their tag of the ‘dark horses’ with consecutive wins against Algeria, Russia and South Korea to top Group H with a 100% record. But despite winning all their games so far, Marc Wilmots’s side have been far from convincing in their victories. They managed to bail themselves out of jail in their opening game against Algeria after the North Africans took an early lead. And it was a late strike from Divock Odigi that sealed their progress to the Round of 16 with a 1-0 win over Russia. And the script was an all too familiar one against South Korea last Friday as Belgium secured another 1-0 win, thanks to Jan Vertonghen latching on to a rebound.
But more than what’s at stake, it will be injury worries that will concern both managers. While Toby Alderweireld is expect to come back into the right back position after being rested in the match against South Korea in favor of the now injured Anthony Vanden Borre, who has been ruled out of the World Cup with a fractured fibia, the Red Devils look particularly threadbare in the heart of the defense as Vincent Kompany continues to struggle with a groin problem and unsettled Arsenal defender Thomas Vermaelen yet to recover from a hamstring strain. Axel Witsel will take his place alongside Marouane Fellaini, while the attacking trio of De Bruyne, Mertens and Eden Hazard are expected to play behind the lone striker, which could well be Divock Origi after Romelu Lukaku disappointed in his opening two appearances.
The USA punched above their weight to navigate through a tricky Group H at the expense of Portugal and Ghana and will look to repeat their 2002 showing by reaching the quarter finals in Brazil. But the Americans have their fair share of selection issues as Sunderland striker Jozy Altidore has returned to training after limping off just 23 minutes into the Ghana game with a hamstring injury. Clint Dempsey could well move into midfield to allow Altidore to play as the lone striker or Klinsmann might look to stick with the former up front on his own.
Alejandro Bedoya is expected to return to the right wing after recovering from concussion, which could mean a switch to the left wing for Graham Zusi.
Belgium vs USA Predicted Lineups:
Belgium: Courtois; Alderweireld, Van Buyten, Kompany, Vertonghen; Witsel, Fellaini, De Bruyne; Mertens, Hazard, Origi
USA: Howard; Johnson, Gonzalez, Besler, Beasley; Beckerman, Jones; Bedoya, Bradley, Zusi; Dempsey
Belgium vs USA Prediction:
Belgium has been uninspiring and unconvincing in their victories so far, but when it gets down to the business end of the World Cup, it is all about getting the job done and Marc Wilmots won’t mind another dull performance if his side manage to book their place in the quarter finals. On the other hand, the USA have shown great doggedness and resilience to make it through a difficult group and will look to rely on their combative instincts to see them through this one!
But Belgium should have enough quality to see off the Americans in what is likely to be a intriguing tactical battle.
Belgium nick it 1-0!