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I have a friend from Belgium. Any time anything Belgian comes up, someone inevitably brings up waffles. He grits his teeth and explains for the umpteenth time that Belgian waffles were invented in the United States, the Brussels waffle is actually eaten back home, and Belgium’s true food exports are fries and chocolate (I’ll have to have him explain this to El Bolso). When the US and Belgium were matched up, I told him that “we will do to your soccer team exactly what we did to your chocolate and fries; take the quality out and make them appear bland and tasteless.” Winning the US way.

We’re past the group stage. Go big or go home. No more “thanks CR7,” no more draws, no more conservatism. It’s time to put everything on the line, and I’m hoping the USMNT can deal with that.

It’s time to attack.

The USMNT’s attack could be about to get a big boost.

With the news that Jozy Altidore is available to play, the Belgians are probably thinking the same thing. US coach Jurgen Klinsmann may be trying to get in their heads with the prospect of a more attacking style than the team has shown so far in the tournament, setting up the Belgian team to be more defensive from the start to keep some pressure off the US back line. We’ll see how that plays out.

If Jozy does play, it’ll be a tremendous help to the team’s offense. He can be used as a pure holdup man, which he excels at, and that will also keep some pressure off his ailing hamstring. Clint Dempsey did an admirable job trying to fill in as the lone striker against Germany, but was eventually ineffective. Putting Dempsey back to a more natural wide role will give the Belgian defense fits.

Klinsmann also announced in his press conference today that he’s not happy with FIFA’s choice of Algerian referee Djamel Haimoudi to officiate the game. Klinsmann was quick to point out that the referee and his team have performed well in the games they’ve officiated so far, but is concerned about a) the referee speaking to the Belgians in French, and b) possible hard feeling from the US knocking out Algeria in the 2010 World Cup.

Now, is the US coach really concerned about those things? Not at all. He’s just nudging the ref from afar saying, “hey, we’re watching you. Better pay attention.” Head games. If anything does pop up, he can say, “told you so.”

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Fellaini has a thigh injury which may sideline him, but his hair has reportedly been out on the town every night this week.

I Believe – I’ve heard it called a stupid, simple chant for a stupid, simple country. But dammit, we love it. Other teams, other countries, they have epic ballads that last an entire half. The USA? Somehow this catchy little chant, originated at the Naval Academy and propelled by an awesome ESPN commercial, is now the war cry of a nation that is reveling in its own moral decay. I believe that all the morning shows will reference it with smiles and coffee, but that shouldn’t stop you from leading the chant in the boardroom. It may be the only way you can force the new VP to finish that meeting a few minutes early.

The Sidelines – Jurgen has had a magic touch so far in this tournament, but he has some heavy choices to make in this game. Jozy is “ready” but is it worth putting him on the pitch for 9 minutes like Diego Costa in the Champion’s League final, wasting a substitute? Does Omar Gonzales get another start over Geoff Cameron? Will 19-year old Julian Green finally make an appearance to shut up the Donafans?

On the other side of the halfline, Marouane Fellaini has a thigh injury and won’t be 100% if he plays. Vincent Kompany is also a possible no-show. Thomas Vermaelen is definitely out. Belgium has a fairly deep team; other than Kompany, they’ve got young players that can play as well or better than the “stars” that may be injured. Fellaini has spectacular moments, but…I don’t know, maybe cornrows would work better. In defense, Van Buyten is available and pretty scary. Jan Vertonghen scored the game winner when Belgium had only 10 men against South Korea. Belgium’s got a lot of problems but their depth ain’t one.

Warning – Hazard Ahead – I truly believe that Eden Hazard is the X-factor in this game. Look for him to take advantage of holes created by Fabian Johnson making runs up the side, but Hazard may leave similar holes open for Johnson to get through the midfield. If someone, whether it’s Jermaine Jones or Kyle Beckerman can fill in as support, it’ll open up their central midfielders to crash the box.

Pinkman – Come on, Bradley. The last game was better, but still, the first and last 5 minutes of the game were sketchy AGAIN. Get your head out of your butt. Please. For me. For your country.

Captain Hatch

About Captain Hatch

A typically ignorant, selfish American. Initially reluctant to get into football, Captain Hatch was eventually convinced that his only path to salvation was on the pitch.

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