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Belgium reveal respect for US ‘keeper Tim Howard, Clint Dempsey


Heading into Tuesday round of 16 clash between Belgium and the USA, both camps have been complimenting one another in rather cordial exchanges.

Now it is Belgium’s turn.

On Sunday U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard warned his teammates of Romelu Lukaku’s talents, as the Chelsea striker spent the entire 2013-14 season on loan at Howard’s club Everton. Now of Howard’s Everton teammates has returned the favor, as speedy winger Kevin Mirallas has talked up the USA’s veteran goalkeeper.

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Speaking ahead of the match vs. the U.S. in Salvador on Tuesday, Mirallas praised Howard and Clint Dempsey and insisted that Belgium will not be underestimating Jurgen Klinsmann’s side.

“Tim is a superb goalkeeper, one of the 10 best in the world,” Mirallas said. “Along with our goalkeeper, Thibault Courtois, he is one of the best at the World Cup, and he has lots of great qualities. USA have done very well and they are an excellent team. They have very good players, particularly Clint Dempsey, and we have to pay attention to them.

“We are making history and I hope that all the team is ready to continue doing so. We are more excited than nervous. It is the first time for most of us on this stage, but we know the whole country is behind us.”

Mirallas’ comments back up what most U.S. fans have already seen thus far in the tournament. Despite the strong play of Matt Besler, Fabian Johnson, Jermaine Jones and others, the outside world see Howard and Dempsey as the face of this U.S. squad. If Klinsmann’s men are going to advance to the quarterfinals for the first-time since 2002 and beat Belgium, Howard will have to come up with big stops and Dempsey will need to score clutch goals. Nothing new there. Howard has allowed four goals so far, but came up with monster saves against Portugal and Germany when the U.S. needed him most, as for Dempsey, he has struck twice at crucial moments with his early goal vs. Ghana and late tap in against Portugal crucial in nabbing the U.S. qualification to the knockout stages.

Belgium are prepared and aren’t underestimating the challenge ahead.

LINEUPS: Tim Howard starts for USMNT against Costa Rica

SALVADOR, BRAZIL - JULY 01:  Tim Howard of the United States gestures during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Round of 16 match between Belgium and the United States at Arena Fonte Nova on July 1, 2014 in Salvador, Brazil.  (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
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The United States takes on Costa Rica in a friendly tonight at Red Bull Arena, as the USMNT must put the Mexico match behind them and focus on the upcoming World Cup qualifiers.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage ]

The biggest inclusion in tonight’s starting XI is that of Tim Howard in goal, marking his return to the national side after taking a self-imposed sabbatical. It will be Howard’s first appearance for the USMNT since his legendary performance against Belgium in the 2014 World Cup.

Klinsmann has chosen to go with a 4-4-2 tonight, and Geoff Cameron remains the only starter in the back-line from the Mexico match. He’ll partner with Michael Orozco in the center of defense, with Brad Evans and Tim Ream on the outsides.

[ MORE: Fabian Johnson sent home from USMNT after fall-out with Klinsmann ]

In the midfield, Klinsmann has put some speed on the wings through the likes of DeAndre Yedlin and recent call-up Brek Shea. Danny Williams joins Jermaine Jones as the central midfielders.

Up top, Jozy Altidore will play alongside Gyasi Zardes, who returns to his more comfortable position as forward.

Cristiano Ronaldo wins record fourth European Golden Boot

MADRID, SPAIN - OCTOBER 13:  Real Madrid football player Cristiano Ronaldo poses with his four Golden Boot Awards as maximun goal scorer of European leagues at The Westin Palace Hotel on October 13, 2015 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
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Cristiano Ronaldo has added another trophy to the collection, winning his fourth Golden Boot as Europe’s top scorer for the 2014-15 season.

The award accounts for goals in league play only, which means the Champions League and domestic tournaments are not included. In La Liga, Ronaldo scored 48 goals in 35 appearances.

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Ronaldo first won the award after the 2007-08 season with Manchester United, and has now added three more with Real Madrid in 2010-11, 2013-14, and 2014-15.

With his fourth win, Ronaldo moves ahead of Lionel Messi as the only player to win the award four times. Messi has won three, while eight players have won two.

Below is a post from Ronaldo’s Facebook page reflecting on the award:

What a special moment in my professional life!

Winning four Golden Boots is a privilege for me and I’ll keep challenging myself because I want to do better every time and I want to keep chasing for more records.

I have to thank everyone in Real Madrid that made this possible and we want to keep winning more titles and more trophies. Thank you everyone.

Ronaldo alone scored more goals in La Liga play last season than 14 clubs did, which shows how prolific his season was. The only player to score more than 48 league goals in a European season was Messi, who scored 50 in 2011-12.

[ EURO 2016: A look at the 20 teams that have qualified for France ]

While it was a successful year for Ronaldo personally, it was a very disappointing campaign for Real Madrid, who fired manager Carlo Ancelotti after finishing the season without a trophy.