Game on: Lineups, talking points as U.S., Belgium close out World Cup’s Round of 16

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In search of their second knockout win at a World Cup, the Unites States has made a major change to a starting lineup that is still without first choice striker Jozy Altidore. When Jurgen Klinsmann’s side kicks off against Belgium at 4:00 p.m. Eastern in Salvador, Brazil, central defender Geoff Cameron will be back in the team, but not at the expense of his replacement, Omar Gonzalez. Instead, Gonzalez will start next to Matt Besler as Cameron’s moved into midfield, pushing Kyle Beckerman to the bench.

On the other side, Belgian captain Vincent Kompany is in Marc Wilmots’ starting XI, which has elected to keep striker Divock Origi in the lineup. Romelu Lukaku, who started the team’s first two games at striker, has been dropped to the bench, though the real danger remains in the Belgians’ next line of three. Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne, and Dries Mertens will not only stress the U.S.’s back seven, they’ll force wingers Graham Zusi and Alejandro Bedoya to maintain the same defensive intensity we saw against Germany.

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Here are your starting XIs, with U.S. Soccer announcing the Americans’ as a 4-3-3:

Belgium: Courtois; Alderweireld, Van Buyten, Kompany, Vertonghen; Witsel, Fellaini; Mertens, De Bruyne, Hazard; Origi.

United States: Howard; Johnson, Gonzalez, Besler, Beasley; Cameron, Bradley, Jones; Zusi, Dempsey, Bedoya

Talking points

– Can Belgium play on the front foot? One of the talking points coming out of group stage was Belgium’s performance – a perfect 3-0-0 opening stage that included three lackluster wins. For a team with as much talent as any side in the tournament, it was an unconvincing opening round, with some analysts back home noting the Red Devils have trouble when forced to play on the front foot. Against the U.S., life’s not going to be any different. Can the Belgians deliver as favorites?

– What’s the cost, benefit of dropping Kyle Beckerman? In terms of the international game, the Real Salt Lake holder is a limited player, but over the U.S.’s first three games, Jurgen Klinsmann was able to offset his weaknesses by putting him in a straight-forward but important role. And Beckerman responded. Throughout the group stage, he was far more a strength than a weakness. Now, in dropping him in favor of Cameron, Klinsmann is going with a better athlete who has more experience against high-level competition. He’s also going with somebody who no longer spends much time in midfield.