The Round of 16 match up between the USNMT and the Belgium Red Devils has intrigue and a bit of same old, same old.
The intrigue will be when USNMT striker Jozy Altidore will play. Altidore was medically cleared to play in Tuesdays clash against Belgium. Altidore strained his left hamstring in the USA June 16th game against Ghana and has not played since.
"We don’t know how much [Altidore will play] because we didn't see how things were going, but he's available. And this is what we wanted. This is what we hoped for," U.S. coach Jürgen Klinsmann said regarding Altiodore medical clearance.
Look for Altidore to be a late game substitute to infuse some offense and force Belgium to chance it’s defense shape if it’s a one goal differential.
The same old, same old will be the USA’s ability or inability to track down opposing offensive players in one B situations. USA Goal keeper Tim Howard will need to ensure his back line of Fabian Johnson, DeMarcus Beasely, Matt Besler and Omar Gonzalez stay disciplined, strong and alert the whole game. Belgium four's goals in the group stage came after the 75th minute mark. Bend but don't brake and stay alert ninety plus minutes will be the USNMT's defensive philosophy throughout the game.
While Belgium has been a big disappointment offensively because of the four goals scored in the Group Stage of the Tournament. The Red Devils are a dangerous attacking side that has one of the most talented midfields in the tournament. Eden Hazard, Dreis Mertens will flank, puppet master Kevin De Bruyne. The trio will try to use the width of the midfield and once in the offensive third, look for Romelu Lukaku to make space-opening runs behind the USA defenders.
Hazard and Mertens will then run to the space created by Lukaku’s runs. Belgium defenders Maroune Fellani and Axel Witsel will be pinched inside on offense and defense. On offense Fellani will try to bring an aerial attack while Witsel will stay behind and force the USA’s Michael Bradley to play defense.
For the USA to have success,midfielders Bradley, Jermaine Jones, Graham Zusi and Kyle Beckerman will have to play a disciplined game on offense and defense. On defense the group will need to stay pinched in, close together and cover the space created by the Belgium runners. On offense the group will need to be patient in possession by holding on to the ball and pass the ball to the second runner running towards the goal. This will also give time for Clint Dempsey to run into space receive the ball and get solid looks at goal. The USA speed on the flanks could cause problems for the stingy Belgium defense.
Belgium gave up just one goal in winning all of it’s Group H games.
Belgium captain Vince Kompany is as good a center back there is in the World. Kompany has led Manchester City to two Premier League title in the last three years. Goalkeeper Thibaut Couitois led Athletic Madrid to these years Champions League Final.