Belgium vs. USA: Tactical Preview of World Cup Round-of-16 Match

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Belgium vs. USA: Tactical Preview of World Cup Round-of-16 Match
Michael Steele/Getty Images

The FIFA World Cup 2014 knockout stage has arrived, with 16 teams exiting at the group stage and the rest left to fight it out for the ultimate prize.

Here we analyse Belgium vs. USA: a match in which the former are clear favourites, but the latter have a clear opportunity to upset the odds and advance to the quarter-finals.

 

Belgium

Belgium have underwhelmed thus far, stringing together three very questionable performances, despite accruing nine points.

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For some, that points to a champion's mentality, but others look at the very challenging match-up the USA present and wonder if it's a step too far.

It's certainly weighing on Eden Hazard's mind, who admitted to reporters (via the Daily Mail) before the game that he hadn't played a good game yet, despite winning two matches with flashes of brilliance.

How will Marc Wilmots address this one?

 

USA

The big news for the USA is that star striker Jozy Altidore is back in contention, and it's highly likely Jurgen Klinsmann will start him.

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"We don't know how much because we need to see how he's going, but he's available," the manager told reporters ahead of the game (via the Daily Star). How many minutes? We will see that during the game. Just having him with us tomorrow is huge."

Premier League fans won't be familiar with the Altidore who turns out for the U.S., but his presence allows Klinsmann a return to the 4-4-2, with Clint Dempsey in a slight free role off the front line.

It brings into question the roles of Kyle Beckerman, Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley; how will Klinsmann reorganise them?

Jones played left midfield in the first game to protect DaMarcus Beasley; could he play on the right to help Fabian Johnson with Hazard here?

 

2 Tactical Clashes

1. Low block

The USA are honest and know their limitations; they'll sit deep and soak up a lot of Belgium pressure before counter-attacking at pace.

Belgium have faced three sides utilising similar tactics already, and in each of the three games, they relied on a moment of genius to get them through.

With no full-back support to the wingers and an out-of-form Kevin De Bruyne, this could well be their fourth struggle in a row.

Credit: Squawka.com
Sitting deep can minimise the amount of take-ons Hazard completes.

 

2. Relief via Jozy

The U.S. have been trapped in their own half for most of their 270 minutes on the pitch so far, and the reason for that is simple: no Jozy Altidore, no relief mechanism.

His power and pace through the channels are vital; he's the first ball out of defence, and he drags his side out from deep positions. Dempsey can then drop into space to receive passes rather than be burdened by carrying the load.

The USA's best attacking weapon throughout the group stages was right-back Fabian Johnson, but expect that to change so long as Altidore's hamstring holds up.

 

Bleacher Report will do a tactical preview and review of every single 2014 FIFA World Cup game. Stay tuned to this link and check it every day for more.

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