The No.1 question asked this week in PST radio appearances seems to be, “So how much of an upset would it be if the US beat Belgium?”
My standby, gut, “Blink” answer is that if the two teams played 10 times, I’d expect the US to pick up around three wins, Belgium six and the 10th to go to kicks. Essentially, given Belgium’s high-end offensive talent I think the Red Devils would take 2 of 3.
But really, let’s dig a little deeper. First, what do the bookies say? After all, they pretty much print their own money and have a good handle on how these things go.
Here are three major betting sites and the odds for a US win:
Skybet — 14:5
Ladbrokes — 16:5
Coral — 3:1
So pretty much across the board you’re earning three dollars for every one you bet on the United States. Clear underdog status here, and there’s no comparable on the board right now.
Put in perspective, here are the other underdogs in scheduled matches:
Switzerland is 6:1 to beat Argentina
Algeria is 10:1 to beat Germany
Costa Rica is 6:1 to beat the Netherlands
Colombia is 18:5 to beat Brazil.
So a United States defeat of Belgium would be far less surprising to bookies than most of these match-ups, and at least a bit less surprising than all. Also, those Colombia odds seems a little unreasonable to be, but I’m not going to be betting anytime soon. Los Cafeteros are one of my favorites to challenge for the title.
History: Sure, Belgium has bested the Yanks twice since 2011 and the U.S. only win in three game series came in the 1930 World Cup. So, no, Belgium has never beaten the U.S. at a World Cup. Game over.
Seriously, though, Belgium skunked the Yanks in a 4-2 decision in May of 2013. That one stings for projections.
However, Belgium hasn’t been to the knockout rounds since 2002, while the States do have the 2010 experience
Finally, form and comparables: Belgium by no means waltzed through Group H despite its 3-0 record, all one-goal wins and not a powerhouse victim among Russia, Algeria and South Korea (though the latter saw Belgium find its winner down to 10-men).
The U.S. had a much tougher group, but escaped with only four points.
Belgium’s best wins since the start of 2013 are: the US, Serbia, Croatia and Sweden.
The Yanks’ best wins since the start of 2013 are: Nigeria, Ghana, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Costa Rica (twice).
Also don’t forget that the Western hemisphere teams have almost all performed reasonably well, if not over expectations, in this tournament.
Verdict: Being upfront about it, it would definitely be an upset for the U.S. to move forward in the tournament but it certainly wouldn’t be a major surprise. One of my favorite podcasts, England’s The Football Ramble (language not safe for kids), spoke of the match as a bit of a toss-up.
After doing the research, I’m not backing down from my initial thoughts: Belgium wins this game 67% of the time. And they’ve won the last two. So…