The USA soccer team couldn't look ahead to the next step of the World Cup on June 26. Because the USA looked ahead at the very end of its last match, it suffered the worst tie in its World Cup soccer history against Portugal and had to play for its life against Germany as a result. But since losing by 1-0 to Germany didn't keep the U.S. out of the knockout round after all, it could finally relax and wait to see who it would face next.
Since the Americans finished second in Group G, they would face the Group H champion. It was obvious that it would be Belgium, even before it played South Korea in its first round finale. But the Belgians put an exclamation point on things anyway, winning by 1-0 despite playing with 10 men in the second half.
A 78'th minute goal by Jan Vertonghen was all that Belgium needed, which made sense since late goals powered its first two victories. But no matter how Belgium won, it took all three first round matches, joining the Netherlands, Columbia and Argentina as the only unbeaten, untied teams left in the World Cup. Unfortunately for the USA, it has to play one of those unbeaten, untied teams to make the quarterfinals.
In its modern soccer history, the U.S. has only made it to the World Cup quarterfinals in 2002, where it ironically lost to Germany. It looked like the Americans would have a real shot in 2010, yet Ghana broke their hearts in the second round. The USA was slightly favored in that match, but it will be a decided underdog against Belgium.
America's 1-0 loss to Germany was only close on paper, as it exposed how the team may still not be ready against soccer's super powers. Belgium isn't a powerhouse yet, but this World Cup could be a breakthrough for it. Of course, whoever wins this match will likely be a big underdog in the quarterfinals, with Argentina and Lionel Messi probably waiting.
The Americans and Belgians will know beforehand, as their match on July 1 at 4 p.m. est will be the last of the second round. Will the USA cap the round with its biggest upset, or will it once again hit an early limit at the World Cup?