Email List Google Plus
 

Question of the DaySave with the ABC 22 Golf CardReal EstatePhoto GalleriesOn-Time TrafficBack-to-School Dates
WKEF-TV ABC 22 News :: Sports - Local Sports - US plays Belgium for place in World Cup quarters

US plays Belgium for place in World Cup quarters

MOGI DAS CRUZES, Brazil (AP) -- Highly physical, probably defensive and anxiety-ridden for sure.

Not exactly the kind of happy football that fans have enjoyed so far at the World Cup, but it's the likely scenario for Tuesday's second-round match between Belgium and the United States.

The stakes certainly are high enough. Belgium has not reached the quarterfinals since 1986 and the U.S. team has already exceeded expectations by emerging from a tough opening group and wants to ride that momentum.

"Don't be content," U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. "Nobody can claim that he reached his 100 percent yet."

That was after the Americans played three grueling games in the Amazon jungle and Brazil's tropical northeast coast. The U.S. finished ahead of Portugal and Ghana, taking second place in Group G behind Germany.

Tuesday's winner will face either Argentina or Switzerland in Brasilia on July 5. With support reaching fever pitch back home, American players realize the increased attention that comes with each match is an opportunity not to be missed to promote the sport in the United States.

"We want to obviously do well for ourselves, for our country, but it's a big step for the growth of soccer if we get past Belgium," U.S. defender DaMarcus Beasley said.

Getting past Belgium is no easy task. So far it has conceded only one goal - a penalty at that - in three games. And in Thibaut Courtois, the team has arguably the most exciting young goalkeeper in the world.

While team captain Vincent Kompany has been excellent in the two games he's played, the central defender has been struggling with a recurring groin strain and is a doubt for Tuesday's game.

"We will have to assess it tomorrow, how he moves," said Belgium coach Marc Wilmots, adding his recovery was on schedule. "I cannot play him if he is 80 percent only."

Another starter, Thomas Vermaelen, has a hamstring injury and has resumed individual exercises. Whether he can play or not will be another last-minute decision.

Add to that the cracked fibula of right back Anthony Vanden Borre and an abductor strain for Laurent Ciman, and Wilmots could be in trouble.

Belgium has treaded extremely carefully to line up three one-goal victories and emerge from its group with a perfect record. Holding back, avoiding errors and pouncing late has become its mantra, and if fans deplore the lack of joy - too bad. The satisfaction of beautiful football cannot match the thrill of victory.

"If you ask me whether to produce thrills and leave after the group stage, or win all games 1-0 and win the World Cup, I prefer 1-0. That is clear," Wilmots said. "I am there to be a realist. I am not there to please the stadium fans."

And since the U.S. offense has often been anemic, don't bet on much of a goal-fest.

In the last two games, Klinsmann opted for a formation with five midfielders to feed lone striker Clint Dempsey. Jozy Altidore, the top American forward, has been sidelined since straining his left hamstring in the first half against Ghana and has been training on his own.

The U.S. hasn't played Belgium in the World Cup since winning 3-0 in its opening match of the very first tournament in 1930.

"We need to find a way to bottle up their key players," U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard said, "but they have so many of them. It will be difficult."US plays Belgium for place in World Cup quarters

Related Stories

Ohio Sports

BREWERS-REDS

CINCINNATI (AP) -- Johnny Cueto pitched seven solid innings, and the Cincinnati Reds stayed in the chase for the NL's top record by beating the Milwaukee Brewers 4-2 on Tuesday night after learning they'll be without their manager for the rest of the week.

The Brewers dropped back-to-back games for the first time in more than a month, and it came at a bad time. They started the day 3 1/2 games behind St. Louis for the final NL wild card spot.

They got no break from the Reds, who clinched the NL Central title on Saturday night.

Manager Dusty Baker met players before the game and revealed he suffered a mini-stroke in addition to being treated for an irregular heartbeat last week. The 63-year-old manager hopes to return to the dugout next week.

REDS-BAKER

CINCINNATI (AP) -- Dusty Baker won't manage the Cincinnati Reds until the final series in St. Louis, giving him time to recover from an irregular heartbeat that left him hospitalized last week.

Baker met with owner Bob Castellini and his team on Tuesday before a game against the Brewers. Bench coach Chris Speier said he'll manage the final three home games against Milwaukee and three in Pittsburgh over the weekend, with Baker taking over for the last three games next week.

The 63-year-old manager was hospitalized in Chicago last Wednesday for an irregular heartbeat, a problem he's had for a while. He was in the hospital for four days, missing the Reds' 6-0 win over the Dodgers on Saturday night that clinched the NL Central title.

INDIANS-WHITE SOX

CHICAGO (AP) -- The Chicago White Sox have lost sole possession of first place in the AL Central race, with the Indians playing spoiler. Gordon Beckham hit into a game-ending forceout with the potential tying run on second base yesterday as the Indians downed the White Sox 4-3.

Down 4-0 in the fourth inning, the White Sox closed within a run when Paul Konerko homered off Chris Perez leading off the ninth. Perez walked a pair of batters with two outs, and Beckham grounded to shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, who threw to second baseman Jason Kipnis for the force.

Chicago (82-72) had held sole possession of the division lead since September 3. Detroit pulled into a tie for the division lead with its win over Kansas City last night.

T25-OHIO ST-MATCHING UP

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Through four games and four victories, Ohio State's defense has faced a continual drumbeat of short passes, quick routes, screens and sweeps.

Every opponent, it seems, has relied on a sleight of hand.

Now the Buckeyes are looking forward to getting into familiar territory when they open Big Ten play.

When No. 14 Ohio State travels to 20th-ranked Michigan State on Saturday, the Buckeyes anticipate they'll run into a more conventional Midwestern attack. Granted, that means having to counteract the 244-pound blasts of the Spartans' massive Le'Veon Bell.

But after a month of chasing people, the Buckeyes think they might benefit from a change of pace from the subterfuge and rush-avoiding quick-hitters in a trade for raw man-on-man power struggles at the line of scrimmage.

T25-UPTIGHT SPARTANS

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Michigan State's lackluster win last weekend got to coach Mark Dantonio.

After the Spartans beat Eastern Michigan 23-7 Saturday, Dantonio hurried through a terse news conference full of abrupt answers. The Michigan State coach said "next question" seven times in under a minute and was clearly annoyed with the way his team played.

On Tuesday, Dantonio spoke with reporters for around a half-hour, but Michigan State isn't making any players or assistants available this week. The Spartans' coach is trying to send a clear message to his players that it's time to get serious.

Sports Stories

 

Tonight on ABC 22

6:00 pm ..... ABC 22 News at Six
6:30 pm ..... ABC World News
7:00 pm ..... Family Feud
7:30 pm ..... Family Feud
8:00 pm ..... The Middle
8:30 pm ..... The Goldbergs
9:00 pm ..... Modern Family
9:30 pm ..... Modern Family
10:00 pm ... Motive
11:00 pm ... ABC 22 News at Eleven
11:30 pm ... Jimmy Kimmel Live
12:30 am ... Nightline
Complete Schedule»