The US men may have managed to reach the coveted knockout stage following their trio of outstanding efforts in group match play.
A date with an unbeaten Belgium squad that is so stingy, that they make Ebenezer Scrooge look like a cheerful giver.
Belgium vs. USA Betting Line
Where: Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador, Brazil
When: Tuesday, July 1, 2014, 4:00PM ET
Line: Belgium (-½ -110) vs. USA (+½ -125)
Over/Under Total 2½
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— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) July 1, 2014
Belgium kicked off its 2014 World Cup run by handling Algeria 2-1 on June 17th before going on to shut Russia out in its commanding 1-0 win. Following that win, the Belgians posted another shutout in quieting South Korea in another 1-0 victory.
Belgium is one of just four countries, along with the Netherlands, Argentina and Colombia, to go undefeated in group play. However many critics point to the fact that Belgium won all three matches by a single goal as something of a weakness.
As a matter of fact, fivethirtyeight.com has Belgium listed with just a 59 percent chance of making it out of the knockout stage and just a 20 percent chance of reaching the semifinals. Last but not least, Belgium also comes in with just a two percent chance of winning it all.
Still, the Belgians have impressed, particularly on defense where they are tied with Mexico and Costa Rica for the best defensive record in the 2014 World Cup so far.
Goalie Thibaut Courtouis has allowed just one goal – that came on an Algeria penalty kick and the team’s backline has routinely shut down its opponents with a a defensive clearance rate of 97% that ranks second only to Croatia.
Offensively, the Belgian men have struggled mightily, starting with star striker Romelu Lukaku. The forward has pretty much been a non-factor throughout the tournament, not that he has been alone in his mediocre attacking.
Still, Belgium has racked up 43 shots attempts, above the World Cup average of 38.5 shot attempts per match. The Belgians are also very deep with experienced wingers along their front line and the U.S. men have struggled mightily to defend crosses over the course of their exciting World Cup run.
— FIFAWorldCup (@FIFAWorldCup) June 29, 2014
“They’re a top team,” said the USA goalkeeper Tim Howard. “Everyone around Europe will tell you how good they are.”
The U.S. men played their hearts out in their World Cup opener to beat Ghana 2-1 and get the revenge they’ve been seeking against their rivals for eight long years. The United State men then followed that effort up with an even more impressive one, though they allowed a crushing goal on the final play of the match to walk away with a 2-2 tie against Portugal, instead of the 2-1 win they should have had.
Last but not least, Howard and company played another fantastic match to reach the knockout round by narrowly falling to mighty Germany 1-0 in their Group G, Group of Death finale. More importantly, this year’s U.S.A. squad has shown that they have more fight in them than any remaining World Cup team.
Still, the U.S. men will need to be far more efficient with their attack than they have been after not being able to get a single shot off against Germany and are averaging a scant nine attempts per match. The good news for the U.S. men coming into this match is the fact that they have identical attempt rate percentages (70 percent).
Defensively, the U.S.A men will need solid performances from fullbacks Fabian Johnson and DaMarcus Beasley and a much better performance from midfielder Michael Bradley, a player many expected to lead the U.S. in this year’s World Cup.
U.S.A. men’s coach Jurgen Klinsmann wants his team to attack far more in this match than they did against Germany in their last match.
"It’s definitely something that we learned out of the Germany game. We were too deep — especially the first 20 minutes," Klinsmann said. "I was screaming my lungs off there to get the back line out and to move the entire unit high up the field. We will work on that in next couple days in training, to shift our entire game up forward. So that will put more pressure on the opponents and create more chances."
Belgium vs. USA Betting Line Pick:
I’m going to urge you to look very hard at betting the ‘Draw’ selection for this match. These two teams are very evenly matched and the U.S. will likely represent the biggest obstacle for Belgium, though not necessarily the other way around.
I think Belgium’s mediocre offense could actually give the U.S. men the outright win. I like a 1-1 draw to play out in this knockout stage match first and foremost, but if I had to select a winner, I’d rather back an overachieving U.S.A. team as opposed to a Belgian team that may not be nearly a good as their undefeated record, thanks to their trio of mediocre Group H opponents.