After the thrill of beating the United States’ bogeyman, Ghana, in the opening match of Group G it’s been all downhill on the results mountain—at least that will be the narrative of some following another bitterly contested match for the USMNT.
Yes, a 1-0 loss in the final group game isn’t exactly how you wanted to build momentum going forward, but that’s the key word—forward. The United States is advancing, and according to the oddsmakers, that was more unlikely than the United States finishing dead last in Group G.
Yet, after three games the United States followed the blueprint it wanted to advance when the draw came out in December—beat Ghana, get at least a draw with Portugal and not get an ass kicking from Germany.
To borrow from a certain former President: “Mission Accomplished.”
For the first time in the history of U.S. Soccer it moved on to the round-of-16 in back-to-back World Cups folks, and that should be cause for celebration. So to should be taking a look at who’s coming out of Group H to face the United States.
The USMNT will take on Belgium, winners of Group H, next Tuesday at 3:30p.m. ET and something tells me that after three games with the likes of Ghana, Portugal and Germany, a matchup with the Red Devils sounds pretty appetizing right about now.
Play back any of the Belgium and United States games side by side and tell me who looks better following group play?
While the Yanks may have had a difficult time with Portugal and Germany; Belgium had a difficult time with the likes of Algeria, Russia and South Korea. Those three sides aren’t exactly striking fear in to the hearts of anyone advancing to the round of 16.
After all, Belgium didn’t exactly crush its way through the group, having to come from behind and having to have a 19-year-old score a last second header to beat Russia 1-0. It did the same thing in its final group match against South Korea.
Those three results don’t exactly strike fear into the heart of USMNT fans or players, but there’s another advantage at play here—the United States is playing this game in the America’s and as we’ve seen in this World Cup that has mattered greatly.
CONCACAF and CONMEBOL have half of the 16 teams moving forward and each have seen just one of their respective delegation sent home. Playing in relatively familiar surroundings has always had a major effect on World Cup results.
No European team has ever won a World Cup in either North or South America, while Brazil is the only team to have won a World Cup from the Americas on European soil. Considering this event’s history, that’s also advantage United States.
Now sure, Belgium has a ton of talent and winning a group should never be underestimated. Yet, the reality of the matter is that the USMNT is more than battle tested and more adept at playing at a higher level all tournament long.
Call me crazy, but playing against Belgium’s Moussa Dembélé, Marouane Fellaini or Romelu Lukaku won’t be nearly as intimidating as seeing Cristiano Ronaldo, Thomas Muller or Asamou Gyan across the pitch from you—just to name a few.
So, despite “backing in” as many are want to feel, the United States’ chances of moving even further in the tournament are better than they were of moving out of the “Group of Death.” That’s not just the odds talking, that’s the reality of how the games went for both squads that’s telling me that.
Despite all the odds against the United States, the team and its fans should feel very confident in moving to the quarterfinals if you ask me. Who would’ve said that heading in to the 2014 World Cup, right?