USA vs Belgium: US to use Portugal blueprint versus Belgium

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The United States’ strong performance against Portugal could provide the blueprint to defeat Belgium, according to Brad Davis and Clint Dempsey.

The USA almost clinched a 2-1 win over Portugal in Group G on June 22 before Silvestre Varela’s goal in the fifth minute of second-half stoppage time clinched a draw for the Europeans.

Despite missing out on the three points, the USA still advanced to the knockout stages of the FIFA World Cup and will face Belgium on Tuesday for a quarter-finals berth.

Against Portugal and without preferred centre forward Jozy Altidore, who hurt his hamstring in the USA’s opening match versus Ghana, Jurgen Klinsmann picked Dempsey up front and packed the midfield.

Michael Bradley played ahead of two holding midfielders, Jermaine Jones and Kyle Beckerman, with Graham Zusi and Alejandro Bedoya out wide.

Davis, who started the USA’s final group match versus Germany, believes Klinsmann’s compact defensive strategy suits the Americans. “I think if we’re compact and smart defensively, I think we’re definitely going to get our chances going forward,” the midfielder said on Monday. “I think defensively the responsibilities, if we handle that and are smart with that, then I think going forward we’re definitely going to create some chances and hit the back of the net a few times.”

Dempsey started up front on his own again versus the Germans and the CONCACAF side failed to get a shot on target from just four attempts for the match.
Against Ghana, Dempsey and Altidore were paired up front but the former rejected the idea he could not play as a lone striker, with the USA having shot 15 times (five on target) against Portugal – their highest shots tally in Brazil so far. “I think if you look at the Portugal game, we created more chances in that formation just because we were able to do a better job of keeping possession and then having more confidence in the attacking third,” the Seattle Sounders forward said.

“Who’s to say what formation we do next game, that’s up to the boss. Whatever is best for the team and allows us to get the right results, I feel confident that we’ll do well.” Altidore looks set to be available for selection against Belgium, who could start the round-of-16 clash in Salvador without three defenders, Vincent Kompany, Thomas Vermaelen and Anthony Vanden Borre, all due to injury.

“We feel Belgium is a very good side but they also seem to be a little beat up and we see them as a team that’s very tough but definitely beatable,” Davis said. “I see similarities between this team and Portugal. I think honestly we handled Portugal pretty well.”

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