World Cup: Messi back in action, US vs Belgium

By: The Associated Press
By: The Associated Press

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — The United States takes on Belgium for a place in the World Cup quarterfinals on Tuesday, a few hours after the day's action gets underway with Lionel Messi's Argentina playing Switzerland.

Living up to expectations, Messi has been the key to Argentina's run to the last 16, scoring four of his team's six goals. There'll likely be more to come from the Barcelona star, who has been decisive in matches in Brazil without dominating the play.

The U.S. has already done well to emerge from a tough group, behind Germany but ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal, and should be a match for a talented Belgium lineup.

What to watch on Tuesday:

BELGIUM vs. UNITED STATES

The stakes are high, but still expect the United States to show a more attacking game against Belgium after lacking bite so far in the tournament. The Americans only managed the second-lowest number of attacks out of the 32 teams during the group stage, with just 72.

Speaking after the U.S. lost 1-0 to Germany, U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said: "We will work ... to shift our entire game up forward. So that will put more pressure on the opponents and create more chances."

The good news on the injury front for the U.S. is that forward Jozy Altidore is available after straining his left hamstring in the team's opener against Ghana on June 16. He didn't play the next two group games but should be available to start on the bench on Tuesday.

Belgium's main threat will come from the creative skills of playmaker Eden Hazard, who provided two decisive assists in group stage victories over Russia and Algeria.

Belgium's strikers have so far failed to deliver at the tournament, but the defense has been solid. The question mark at the back, though, is whether captain and central defender Vincent Kompany will be fully fit after a recurring groin strain. He did train on Monday, but could still be a doubtful starter for the match.

Klinsmann created a stir by saying he isn't happy with FIFA's choice of referee, Algeria's Djamel Haimoudi. Algeria was eliminated by the U.S. in 2010, and Algeria played in the same first-round group as Belgium.

Belgium coach Marc Wilmots dismissed Klinsmann's comments, saying: "If we start going into this, it is looking for excuses ahead of the match."

The United States and Belgium haven't played in the World Cup since the first tournament in 1930, a 3-0 win by the Americans.

Venue: Salvador. Kickoff 5 p.m. local time (4 p.m. in New York, 9 p.m. London, 5 a.m. Tokyo)


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