US plays Belgium for place in World Cup quarters

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 29, 2014 at 12:08 pm •  Published: June 29, 2014
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MOGI DAS CRUZES, Brazil (AP) — Highly physical, probably defensive and anxiety-ridden for sure.

Not exactly the kind of happy football that fans have enjoyed so far at the World Cup, but it's the likely scenario for Tuesday's second-round match between Belgium and the United States.

The stakes certainly are high enough. Belgium has not reached the quarterfinals since 1986 and the U.S. team has already exceeded expectations by emerging from a tough opening group and wants to ride that momentum.

"Don't be content," U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. "Nobody can claim that he reached his 100 percent yet."

That was after the Americans played three grueling games in the Amazon jungle and Brazil's tropical northeast coast. The U.S. finished ahead of Portugal and Ghana, taking second place in Group G behind Germany.

Tuesday's winner will face either Argentina or Switzerland in Brasilia on July 5. With support reaching fever pitch back home, American players realize the increased attention that comes with each match is an opportunity not to be missed to promote the sport in the United States.

"We want to obviously do well for ourselves, for our country, but it's a big step for the growth of soccer if we get past Belgium," U.S. defender DaMarcus Beasley said.

Getting past Belgium is no easy task. So far it has conceded only one goal — a penalty at that — in three games. And in Thibaut Courtois, the team has arguably the most exciting young goalkeeper in the world.

While team captain Vincent Kompany has been excellent in the two games he's played, the central defender has been struggling with a recurring groin strain and is a doubt for Tuesday's game.

"We will have to assess it tomorrow, how he moves," said Belgium coach Marc Wilmots, adding his recovery was on schedule. "I cannot play him if he is 80 percent only."