The U.S. national teams biggest game in decades, perhaps ever, is just a few hours away.
A win against Belgium in the Round of 16 clash in Salvador would set up their first World Cup quarterfinal since 2002 and could well be the biggest win in U.S. soccer history.
[ RELATED: How will the U.S. line up vs. Belgium? ]
That being said, here are three ways the U.S. can overcome a Belgium side stacked with stars in what should be a tense and psychical encounter.
Here it goes…
Get it wide, early
If Belgium’s defense has one weakness, it is that fact that two center backs are playing as full backs. Tottenham’s Jan Vertonghen is likely to start on the left, while Ajax’s Toby Alderweireld will play on the right. Both are great defenders but lack pace and are susceptible to jumping into challenges. Whenever Vertonghen stood in at left back for Spurs in the Premier League last season, he looked unsure in possession and less at home on the left. Both he and Alderweireld are over six-foot tall and if the likes of Graham Zusi, Alejandro Bedoya or whoever starts out wide gets at them from the get-go, the U.S. could have plenty of joy on the flanks.
Lock down the midfield
The midfield has been the USA’s strongest area thus far, even if Michael Bradley’s performances haven’t lived up to his usual high standards. Jermaine Jones and Kyle Beckerman have been two of the USA’s best players, with Beckerman sweeping up all the loose balls in front of the back four with ease (the dude might as well have a cigar in his mouth) and Jones’ high-energy approach unnerving opponents. Belgium’s midfield duo of Marouane Fellaini and Axel Witsel are both extremely physical and the U.S. will have to win that midfield battle to get things going. Fellaini will try to wander in-behind Beckerman and support Lukaku but if Beckerman (or whoever else is in the midfield) can lock him down, then the Manchester United man could be a ghost. Also, don’t expect Jones not to pick up a yellow in this one as his tough-tackling, along with Bradley and Beckerman snapping in, is needed to disturb Belgium’s engine room.
Stop Lukaku and Hazard
Sounds simple enough… but it certainly isn’t. On their day Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard can rip opponents apart. How many times did we see Lukaku take one big touch past a defender, then striding past them before smashing the ball home in the last two PL seasons? As for Hazard, his trickery, pace and guile will give Fabian Johnson and the rest of the USA’s defenders plenty of problems. You can hit these two hard in the tackle and they keep coming back for more but it is unlikely that Lukaku will have come up against specimen such as Geoff Cameron or Omar Gonzalez (or whoever partners Matt Besler at CB) and Hazard can easily get rattled. If the U.S. get in their face and upset Belgium’s star talents, this could do the trick.
You’ve got to appreciate the over-sized ego of Cristiano Ronaldo, even if it is deserved.
The 33-year-old Real Madrid striker was bestowed the 2017 Player of the Year award from the Portugal FA, earning 65 percent of the vote. But more than winning yet another trophy to add to his burgeoning case was what he told the media after accepting the award.
“We have to defend what is ours because there is always a Portuguese in the fight (for the top awards),” Ronaldo said, via AS. “I always believe and say that I am the best, whatever they say, and then I show it in the field. We are in the fight year after year.”
Ronaldo did score 42 goals last year for Real Madrid and has scored 18 goals in 2018 alone already for Los Blancos as the club look to go back-to-back-to-back in the UEFA Champions League.
Last October, for reasons unknown, Matt Miazga didn’t make the U.S. Men’s National Team squad for its final two World Cup qualifiers.
Five months later, he’s risen to the top of the centerback depth chart.
[MORE: Digging into the USMNT roster]
The hulking centerback spoke on Tuesday as the USMNT started off its training camp in Cary, N.C., noting that the youth-laden squad wanted to make an impression to stay in the picture moving forward. With four years until the next World Cup and still more than a year until competitive matches, there is still plenty of shuffling and expanding of the player pool to do before then.
Have a listen to Miazga and enjoy the sights and sounds of the USMNT training camp ahead of its friendly match against Paraguay.
MILAN (AP) Bank boss Gaetano Micciche has been elected president of Serie A.
Micciche, the president of Banca IMI, was chosen unanimously on Monday by the Italian league’s 20 clubs.
He succeeds Maurizio Beretta, who left the position nearly a year ago.
[ MORE: Serie A scores, schedule ]
The league has been under emergency leadership, first by former Italian football federation president Carlo Tavecchio then by Italian Olympic Committee president Giovanni Malago.
Malago recommended Micciche for the position.
The federation remains under emergency leadership following Tavecchio’s resignation in the wake of Italy’s failure to qualify for the World Cup.
Liverpool has a message for any club looking to sign Mohamed Salah this summer: Not gonna happen.
The Merseyside club has reportedly said it will “not sell Salah under any circumstances this summer” as the Reds look to hold off the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona, according to The Telegraph. Salah’s four-goal tally against Watford on Saturday took his goal total to an incredible 28 in 32 Premier League games, with another seven goals in cup competitions.
[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]
Liverpool famously kept Barcelona – and Arsenal – off Luis Suarez after the Uruguayan striker wanted to leave in 2013, but Liverpool was only able to stop Barcelona from signing Philippe Coutinho for six months.
As things stand, Liverpool are qualified for the 2018-2019 UEFA Champions League with the club sitting in a top four Premier League place, and keeping Salah is absolutely vital if the Reds want to make a deep run in the competition and compete for a Premier League title. It remains to be seen though if Salah is happy to stay at Liverpool or if a big-money offer from Spain or France can tempt him otherwise to set himself and his family financially for life.