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Posted by on Jun 29, 2014 in At TMV, International, Politics, Sports | 5 comments

World Cup 2014: If It’s Tuesday, It Must Be Belgium

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The last time the United States played Belgium was in a friendly match in 2013 when Belgium beat the U.S. 4-2.

Since then, Team USA has come a long way and will be facing “dangerous” Belgium again Tuesday, but this time in a World Cup Round of 16 game, reaching the knockout stage in consecutive World Cups for the first time in the team’s history.

Statisticians, experts and pundits are trotting out their match-prediction algorithms, oracles, canaries, camels, kangaroos and all kinds of other prognosticators to predict the outcome of this important match.

One algorithm gives the U.S. “about a 42 percent chance of winning a knockout-stage game against Belgium based on each team’s SPI rating as of Thursday morning,” so a bit of an underdog.

As to the chances of winning two knockout-stage matches and advancing to the semifinals, the chances drop to 13 percent and the “ probability of winning the World Cup is only 1.2 percent — although those odds are up from just 0.4 percent before the tournament began,” according to FiveThirtyEight.com.

Minuscule probabilities?

Don’t tell the U.S. team that.

Our players are are so pumped up because of their success — and luck — so far and are so boosted by the tremendous enthusiasm and support of their fans back home — notwithstanding some partisan denigration of their sport — that their coach, Juergen Klinsmann reportedly has advised his players to change their return flights from Brazil until after the World Cup final.


The Chicago Tibune
:

“Juergen has been nothing but positive. He’s telling us, he’s telling our families to change our flights to July 14th, 15th, because we’re going to be here until the very end,” said the center-half [Omar Gonzalez].
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“So that just speaks volumes to how positive he is, how much he believes in this team, and obviously it trickles down to all of us.
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“That means that we’re all as confident as he is, and that we all believe in this team. We plan on being here a few more weeks,” added Gonzalez.

One commentator, even more optimistic and certain than coach Klinsmann, predicts that the USA will beat Belgium because:

1.The U.S. defeated Ghana, who had knocked the USA out of the previous two World Cups.

2. It took the best player in the world more than 90 minutes of play to finally figure out a way past the USA defense, and even then, it only resulted in a draw for Portugal.

3. Without Altidore, who is expected back from injury for the Belgium match, the US only lost to top ranked Germany by one goal during group play.

4. Captain America, Clint Dempsey, may be battered and broken, but cannot be stopped and will capitalize on any Belgium mistake at the defensive end.

Timothy Rapp at bleacherreport.com breaks down the key factors for both sides, starting with who is healthy and who is not, on both teams — a worthwhile read.

Even the Wall Street Journal seems to have been caught up in World Cup excitement with a couple of interesting and balanced videos on “Can Team USA withstand an assault from the energetic Team Belgium?” and on how Americans are watching the World Cup games but, more enlightening, who these Americans are. Not he hooligans, not liberal deadbeats nor “the poor man and poor woman” as ascribed by some.

You’d be surprised.

Enjoy! But above all, enjoy Tuesday’s match because it will be (against) Belgium.

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  • Great stuff!

    Over at ESPN there is discussion over what the American team has had to overcome without Jozy Altidore due to injury.

    Adrian Melville calls it the Altidore Domino Effect:

    Here is a look at how Altidore’s absence has affected the U.S. attack — in particular Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley — and what his possible return would mean for the Americans’ chances of advancing.
    Effect on Clint Dempsey.

    One of the areas in which Altidore was beginning to become a more versatile asset to the U.S. involved his attacking runs into wide areas. This was something that began to improve in the team’s pre-World Cup friendlies and was even evident against Ghana during the play on which he injured his hamstring near the sideline in the opponent’s attacking half.

    Throughout World Cup qualifying, Altidore played as the target striker in Klinsmann’s 4-2-3-1 formation. Similar to his time at Sunderland, Altidore spent much of that time parked in between the opposing central defenders and found himself expending a lot of energy battling for touches and waiting for good service from the creative attacking players behind him.

    As Klinsmann moved to a dual-striker formation, Altidore was able to find more space in wide areas and even averaged three more touches per 90 minutes as he was able to use his speed and underrated vision to create chances for himself and others. With Altidore out of the lineup, and Klinsmann facing 4-3-3 formations in matchups against Portugal and Germany, the U.S. coach had little choice but to move to a 4-5-1 formation. And while Dempsey has done an admirable job in Altidore’s place as a target striker, it’s clearly not his natural position, and the final group game against Germany revealed how difficult it can be to get touches on the ball against an elite opponent that has a variety of skilled attacking options and is capable of pinning a team in its own defensive end.

    Dempsey needs more touches and return to his natural position.

    If Altidore is able to return for Tuesday’s match against Belgium, his speed, particularly in runs through wide channels, will create more space in central midfield for Dempsey to showcase his creative attributes. With Altidore playing target striker, Dempsey provides a closer outlet to the U.S. back line and midfielders as they look to build possession out of the back, and the long runs that Altidore provides as a target forward force opposing defenders to drop deeper and respect the speed and power that Altidore brings. As a result, Dempsey is given a little more space to receive the ball in the U.S. midfield, and from there, the hope is that he would have more opportunities to turn and run at defenders — which is his biggest strength.

    Effect on Michael Bradley

    The ripple effect of Altidore’s injury continues through the midfield, as Dempsey’s role as a target striker forces Michael Bradley to occupy the vacant attacking midfield role. Bradley’s struggles continued in the game against Germany, and it’s clear he has been asked to do too much while playing outside of his natural holding midfield position. (In fact, Bradley has covered more distance than any other player thus far in the World Cup, according to FIFA.) However, combined with Jermaine Jones, these two natural holding midfielders have been the best options at Klinsmann’s disposal in terms of giving Dempsey a short option to combine with as the U.S. builds its attack.

    If Altidore were in the lineup, Klinsmann would be able to drop Bradley into a holding role — either next to Kyle Beckerman or Jones ahead of the back four — and together, those players would serve as pressure to the opposing midfield while also allowing Dempsey to serve as a closer target outlet when the team regains possession. This setup is particularly helpful when playing against the 4-3-3 formation that both Portugal and Germany deployed, and, more importantly, it will likely be the formation Belgium employs against the U.S. in the round of 16.

    Against this formation, Bradley and his partnering holding midfielder would combine to occupy the opponent’s three midfielders, while the two U.S. midfielders out wide would be responsible for overlapping runs from the opponent’s wide defenders. When the opponent turns the ball over, Altidore and Dempsey would be left against just the opponent’s two central defenders in the attack, and Altidore’s speed would be vital in setting up counterattacking opportunities, or, at the very least, pushing the U.S. into the attacking third more often. Meanwhile, Bradley could add to the attack with his trademark delayed runs into the attacking third, likely coming in undetected at least once per game as a result of his awareness and fitness level in outrunning defensive players trying to track his runs.

    Tuesday:

    To this point in the tournament, Altidore’s absence has been a significant setback to the U.S. attack, as it’s forced the team’s two best outfield players — Dempsey and Bradley — to play nontraditional positions and take on more responsibility than they are accustomed to.

    Having Altidore will significantly bolster the U.S. chances of advancing past Belgium in the round of 16.

  • ShannonLeee

    Belgium underperformed in a weak group. They haven’t been tested by a good team in the Brazilian heat. They do have a talented team, very talented, but so did Portugal and Ghana (Germany dominated an intimidated US team so i wont mention them). At this point in the Cup, talent does not insure a win. Anyone can win. Soccer is funny that way. Getting out the group was the impossible task and the US managed to do it. Now it’s anyone’s Cup to win.

  • Si, si, si …

  • ShannonLeee

    cheering for the swiss today 🙂

  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

    Now, that’s a tough one for me, SL.

    My Latino background makes me root for Argentina.

    But since, I believe, Argentina is the stronger team, and the winner will play, hopefully, against Team USA, I may settle for Switzerland.

    It’s funny how we rationalize things 🙂

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