Tough-tackling Americans likely to give Belgium a hard time.
Belgium were predicted to take this World Cup by storm by a few shrewd observers.
Marc Wilmots’ squad, on paper, is as strong as any European side and they stormed through their qualifying group – only a late Wales equaliser in Brussels denying them a maximum haul. But they appear to have struggled a little with conditions in Brazil, though did win all of their group games albeit all by a single-goal margin.
What is certain is that they are a hard team to score against. Thibault Courtois, quite possibly the best goalkeeper in the world at present, has only conceded one goal so far, a penalty in their opening match against eventual Group H runners-up Algeria, and the likely return of Vincent Kompany and Toby Alderweireld after they was rested against South Korea will bring their defence back to full strength.
Chelsea’s Eden Hazard and Spurs’ Nacer Chadli should also earn a recall and the Belgians appear to have unearthed a useful striker in teenager Divock Origi, who scored a late winner against Russia in the Maracana.
The Red Devils do seem able to find extra when required, as was the case against the Koreans when Steven Defour was sent off before half-time, and are going to be very tough nut to crack in this tournament.
The USA lost their final group game against Germany but were probably value for a draw and Jurgen Klinsmann’s team have plenty of energy.
Belgium will have to keep a check on the marauding runs of Fabian Johnson but Clint Dempsey needs help up front and it’s unlikely Sunderland’s Jozy Altidore will be fit enough to resume following a hamstring injury.
This doesn’t look a game that’s going to produce a lot of goals as both sides are stronger in defence than attack – under 2.5 total goals is 8/13. It would be no surprise should extra time or even penalties be needed with the draw in 90 minutes available at 12/5.
The match kicks off at 9pm UK time on Tuesday July 1st at the Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador.