The United States has World Cup fever, bad and they don’t want it to end come 4 pm Tuesday afternoon when they face Belgium. There will be fans heading home early from work, or going to viewing parties all over the country to watch the game broadcast by ESPN.
On paper when the 2014 World Cup was set to kickoff on June 12th the team from Belgium was considered a true contender to win it all in Brazil. They are young, talented and well coached. They have maybe the best scoring midfielder in the game today in Eden Hazard who plays for Chelsea along with his fellow countryman and the team’s goal keeper, Thibaut Courtois, the duo are presently on a 20 game national team winning streak.
Games are not played on paper, they are played on the field and team USA has better than a punchers chance of winning the game on Tuesday but they must play smart.
In the game against Germany, team USA set up way too deep, failing to hold the ball enough, creating almost no attacking chances for themselves. They will not make the same mistake against the Belgium side on Tuesday.
It will be the USA World Cup vets that lead the way on Tuesday. Veterans like Jermaine Jones, Tim Howard, Brad Davis, Kyle Beckerman and Clint Dempsey. All five have spent extra time viewing film with head coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
Here are three things the U.S. team must do to beat Belgium.
First, the USA must play far more aggressively on the offensive side of the ball. They were far too conservative in a win over Ghana and the loss to Germany, the need to play a full game like they did against Portugal.
It has to be a physical game even though Belgium coach Marc Wilmots expects it the USA must really take it to the Reds. Counter- attack is the word of the day Tuesday if the USA is to win. Clint Dempsey and Jermaine Jones both have fractured noses – but they can certainly play a physical game if needed, and they might have to if Belgium takes control of the game.
Second, and this point can’t be stressed enough. The USA must control possession of the ball. No doubt that this will be a huge effort especially when it is cleared out from the back. Belgium has some very gifted players who could make the USA pay for any mistake they make in the back. But to win it is as simple as this; they must not allow Belgium to control the ball or to grab the early lead with a quick goal. This game for the USA could be won in the midfield if they can just cause Belgium grief and do everything they can to control the ball.
Then when the USA has the ball, they have to break quickly, because the chances to score will be few and far between, This is a soccer version of rope a dope- take Belgium’s best attack, stop it, break quickly, and hold the ball up until the big guns are in position, and then strike at goal.
Last part of the check list starts with stopping Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bryne. Hazard has become a world class player by finding space and getting past the defense. The USA needs to constantly, bump him force to work for every inch of the pitch he stands on and make his life hell for 90 plus minutes. They also must keep a close eye on De Bryne is an outstanding player who plays in the German Bundesliga for VFL Wolfsburg. He is by far the fastest player on the Belgium team and he is known for his pinpoint passing. He has been feeding the men up front Marouane Fellaini, Jan Vertonghen, Vincet Kompany and Romelu Lukaku with great balls to bury in the back of the net.
So the two men the USA must be physical with and never leave alone are Hazard and De Bryne. If either is able to control the game, the U.S. will be in trouble. Hazard is an attacking midfielder and thus far he has had a quiet World Cup so far and the USA wants to keep it that way.
USA 2 Belgium 1