The US may have backed into the Round of 16, but confidence among the star-spangled faithful sure seems to be running high, observes Chris Jones at ESPN. Fans believe in this team right now. Is that belief warranted? Here's what you need to know before today's game, which kicks off at 4pm Eastern.
- Jozy returns? Jozy Altidore, who injured his hamstring against Ghana, is available, coach Jurgen Klinsmann said, though he wouldn't say how much the star striker would play. "Just having him with us is good," Klinsmann said, as per the Washington Post. But Shep Messing at the New York Post thinks Klinsmann is just playing mind games with Belgium. "I can't see any way in the world that he could play."
- Working the ref. Klinsmann also used yesterday's media appearance to sound off on referee Djamel Haimoudi, in what Doug McIntyre at ESPN sees as yet more gamesmanship. Asked about Haimoudi, Klinsmann said, "We hope it's not a concern," then listed the reasons it might be: Haimoudi speaks French, meaning the Belgian players will be better able to speak with him, and he's Algerian, meaning he might want payback for the way the US knocked Algeria out of the Cup in 2010.
- Belgium is good. The US might need all the help it can get. "Go man-for-man, we don't stack up. Everybody's saying Belgium is the next great team, the dark horse to win the World Cup," Messing writes. Mike Foss at USA Today agrees that "on paper, the US doesn't have the talent to match its Belgium opponent."
- ...But the pressure is on. Messing thinks the US actually has a chance. "Belgium has looked poor," he writes, and like most European teams, arrogant. Jones adds that being the dark horse is rough; "They are saddled with all of destiny's pressure with half of the justification."
- Attack, attack, attack. Foss thinks the US' best chance will be to play an offense-first style, because "Belgium dares its opponents to beat them in the first 70 minutes." The US is allegedly an attack-minded club, but didn't look like one in the group stages.
- Beasley's last hurrah. If the US does fall, it will be the last game for one of its greats, the Washington Post points out; DaMarcus Beasley has now played in four World Cups, a feat less than 30 players in history—none of them American—have managed. "This is what players live for," Beasley tells the paper. "You live to play these types of games."
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