The first 45 minutes have made it clear why the Belgians are favorites, but with a handful of near-chances of their own, the resiliency the U.S. showed through group stage has kept the teams scoreless at the halftime whistle. With Argentina waiting in the next round, nothing has changed between the upstart Americans and Belgium’s Golden Generation, with the teams set to kickoff the second half at 0-0.
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Goals: See “0-0”, above.
Other key moments:
1′ – Near disaster for the U.S., with an errant Omar Gonzalez pass and some miscommunication between Geoff Cameron and Alejandro Bedoya allowing Belgium to get out on the counter. Cutting in front of Gonzalez, Divock Origi takes aim at Tim Howard’s far post from the right of goal. A kick save concedes a corner but keeps the U.S. even.
18′ – This is earlier than Geoff Cameron would have wanted to take a yellow, but trying to hold the ball in the U.S.’s attacking third, the U.S. midfielder takes out Dries Mertens. The call is an easy one. Cameron’s in the book, leaving him at least 72 minutes to avoid a second card.
20′ – The U.S. has struggled on set pieces, but after a corner conceded by Jan Vertonghen, the team generates a near-chance. Attacking a near post ball, Cameron flicks the Graham Zusi corner into space at the far post. Clint Dempsey, however, seems a step behind the play and can’t get to what would have been a golden opportunity.
21′ – It’s not pretty, but a series of determined touches from Dempsey and Michael Bradley generates a shot for “Deuce” just inside the penalty area. The left-footed try poses no problems for Thibaut Courtois, but the attack shows the U.S. coming into the game.
23′ – Another midfield giveaway, and nearly another nightmare for the U.S. With a bad touch near the center line, Zusi evokes memories of Rico Clark, allowing Vertonghen to lead the Belgian on a counter. A touch to the left, a Kevin De Bruyne move back to the right, and De Bruyne has a shot on goal, one he pulls wide of the left post.
26′ – Fabian Johnson’s overrun on the right, allowing Belgium to play Vertonghen behind the defense. Bounding out of midfield, Marouane Fellaini’s in front of goal, but the pass across is blocked by DaMarcus Beasley, preventing the Belgians from challenging Howard’s goal.
30′ – Now Johnson’s down. After a half of sprinting up the flank all half to try and get behind Vertonghen, the right back’s hamstring gives out. Waving to the sideline, Johnson makes it clear: He can’t go on. Klinsmann could move Cameron to right back and bring on Kyle Beckerman, but DeAndre Yedlin gets the call instead. Only 20 years old, the Seattle defender has to replace one of the U.S.’s better players at this year’s World Cup.
38′ – Yedlin nearly makes his mark. Carrying the ball down the right, the replacement fullback lofts a cross to the far post for Dempsey. Matched up against Daniel Van Buyten, Dempsey doesn’t have much of a chance, but the crowd has reason to pause before the big Belgian clears the cross.
42′ – The game’s opening up, with another ball into the box from Yedlin quickly turned into an attack at the other end. After dealing with that threat, the U.S. is carrying the ball out of its own end, with Cameron playing forward for Dempsey. When Vincent Kompany takes out the U.S. captain at the ankles, the Belgian center back becomes the second man in the book.
Question for the second half:
– Who changes first? – The numbers say the Belgians have generated more (and better) chances (9-3, shots; 3-1, shots on goal), but this may be the game the U.S. wants to play. Will Jurgen Klinsmann eventually open things up? Or, for that matter, will Marc Wilmots not want to risk one of these U.S. attacks coming good? As time ticks away, will the Belgian coach eventually sacrifice some of his team’s chances to keep from going behind?
– Will Fabian Johnson be missed? – He’s been one of the U.S. difference makers in Brazil, but his injury has given way to a talented but inexperienced replacement. How DeAndre Yedlin performs opposite Eden Hazard will determine whether Fabian Johnson’s injury comes to define this match.