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Belgium v USA - World Cup R16 match preview

Belgium and USA are meeting in Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador and one of these two teams that are just slightly above average will get the honor of playing in the 2014 World Cup quarter-finals against either Argentina or Switzerland. The match starts at 21:00 UK time, 17:00 local time.

Belgium are the least exciting team to ever win the group with nine points, and they have yet to score a goal before the 70th minute. The Belgians have been toothless for most of the time but when they'd finally open up in the final third of the match it looked quite good, and they've managed to win all three matches.

Eden Hazard hasn't been the leader of this team, the best moves and the match winners came from Marouane Fellaini and Dries Mertens, with Hazard only making one good move in three matches. But what's important about this team is that they've conceded only one goal so far, and that one was conceded from a penalty kick. While Belgium don't really look that good on the pitch they're not allowing the opponent the slightest chance to assume control of the match, and it's only a question of whether Belgium will manage to score or not. So far they've managed to edge every match they've played and it's important to say that their opponents couldn't do anything about it. Even when Belgium opened up in the final third of the match, it wasn't at the expense of their defensive security.

USA have managed to qualify without actually playing a good match. Their win against Ghana in the first round was the key, and USA won that one by playing utterly defensively throughout the match. Then they played 2-2 against confused and depressed Portugal, almost winning the match, and then haven't done much against Germany.

USA are not an exciting team, they've progressed to the round of 16 with sheer willpower and the mentality of a big nation which is making them feel as if they are entitled to win the tournament. Tim Howard, the goalkeeper, is the key member of this team as his influence on the defensive players is so great that he's making his average defence perform to almost a world-class level.

In offense, Clint Dempsey is largely doing everything on his own but seems to be comfortable with the local hero role, and can do his magic even when unassisted by his team mates.

The match is expected to be low-scoring by all means, with USA being a defensive team and Belgium not being capable of scoring until they open up, and it's likely we'll be watching a game in which one goal might make all the difference. The low number of goals won't make this match any less dramatic, it's just likely the drama will begin only after the hour mark.

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