A Belgium vs USA match in the knockout stages surely sounds a delicious fixture with the chances tilting a little bit towards Belgium with their nearly all star line up while USA suffers from being tagged as ‘underdogs’ once again. USA managed to qualify behind Germany from a tough group that consisted of Portugal and Ghana as well while Belgium won all three of their group games.
USA needs more sting in its attack as Clint Dempsey as the sole attack option will not be of much trouble to the Belgian defence. A 4-2-3-1 formation might be Klinsmann’s best option; play it safe defensively and attack down the wings. But my personal preference would be a 4-4-2 holding set up as Altidore’s return could mean a solid attacking partnership with Dempsey. This might also serve as a good strategy to utilize the probable absence of Vincent Kompany from a nagging groin injury. Klinsmann cannot risk adopting a more attacking set up as that would leave goalkeeper Tim Howard without a proper defence, a chance which can pave way for Belgian goals.
Their midfield though hasn’t seen much flair although Jermaine Jones of Besiktas showed some good attacking form.
Belgium are a physically imposing side seldom outmuscled but its defence maintains a high line leaving Courtois susceptible to counter attacks and this is when the US wingers should look to utilize the spaces as looking for goals from crosses would be a futile attempt against a Belgian defence which boasts of such tall players.
Belgium’s strategy has been to sacrifice the beauty of the game and bask in the glory of victores. They have won all three of their group stage games with a goal difference of one goal. But this being the business end of the tournament Marc Wilmots might turn his strategy around. As a result Tim Howard has to play his top game as Belgium forwards might be looking to score early on and then the team would sit back on defence with the reigns firmly in their control.
The unsung hero in the Belgian squad is probably Axel Witsel; seating back deep in the defence, this CDM commands the distribution of balls around the pitch. Marc Wilmots should utilize Witsel’s play making abilities to launch more attacks forward. Eden Hazard has been sensational in his own terms though he hasn’t scored any goals as of yet.
But Wilmots’ team has been suffereing from injury with captain Vincent Kompany being the top priority right now. Dembele, Borre, Vermaelen are already on the list and the recent scare has been Manchester United’s Fellaini.
Players to watch out for:
Atletico Madrid owe their league glory to this giant who stands tall at 1.99m. Two clean sheets in the last two games and just one goal let in against Algeria, USA forwards should have a hard time scoring past him if they do manage to breach the Belgian defence. We can expect a personal battle against Tim Howard to maintain a clean sheet.
The Chelsea winger hasn’t scored many goals but is showing promise. As he twists and turns through the opponents defence it is clear how much Wilmots’ Red Devils depends upon him. Sturdy marking and pressing can leave him defunct in the left wing but does USA have someone fast enough?
He had a good run in the group stages and that is why I will be looking out for this player. Expecting a goal from him would not be too much but he just might set it up for Dempsey to clinch away a winner.
Besides the injury concerns of Belgian players, the temperature might wreck havoc with a player’s health and a drinks break might be introduced. Fans also expect their teams to win within 90 minutes by dominating the opponent. We all expect goals, fast matches and magic on the field. Let’s hope this match will be decided before extra time.
Expect this to go to the penalties, Howard vs Courtois show on the cards.