The United States will seek to advance further in the World Cup than they ever have before on Tuesday when they battle with Belgium for the right to play Argentina in the quarterfinals.

There are many storylines to choose from in this ‘do or die ‘match and ironically, they are near mirror images of each other. Both teams underperformed offensively during their first three games of group play. Both needed dramatic goals late to win some of those games, both are waiting for star players to put on a prime performance, and both coaches have decisions to make due to injuries.

The United States and Belgium have met five times before with Belgium having the upper hand 4-1. In fact, the one and only United States victory over Belgium was in the very first FIFA World Cup tournament in 1930. The U.S. won that game 3-0. Since then however, the Red Devils have absolutely demolished team USA, keeping three clean sheets and winning 4-2 in their most recent match up a little over a year ago.

Belgium is dangerous and heavily underrated. We would not be surprised if they won this tournament. On paper, they possess the individual skill and talent at every position to hoist the cup. Midfielder Eden Hazard and Forward Romelu Lukaku are two of the top ten best players in the world. Goalkeeper, Thibaut Courtois is one of if not the best goalie in the world and with him between the pipes, Belgium has never lost.

Top seeds in the group play are 6-0 thus far in the round of 16, and of the three teams that went 3-0 in group play like Belgium; they have won each of their second round match ups by at least a two goal margin.

If we are sounding sour on the chances of a Stars and Stripes victory on Tuesday it’s because we are. Team USA’s offense has been anemic through their first three games and the backline has looked bad at times giving up soft goals to both Portugal and Ghana, respectively.

If there’s a silver lining for the United States on Tuesday, it is the fact that they have yet to play at their best. Striker Jozy Altidore was hurt for team USA’s first three games, midfielder Michael Bradley has struggled and is due for a breakout performance and the U.S. should be more physically equipped to deal with the climate in Salvador than their European opponents.

For the United States to win, they will need to play a near perfect game. They must play collectively as a team in order to defeat the individual talent of Belgium. They must stay together and work as a unit and invite Belgium’s stars to play them one on one. If Altidore can play, he needs to start as the United States needs to put pressure on Courtois and send a multitude of shots at him. The nine combined shots that the United States had in group play is pathetic and it will not cut it against Belgium. Michael Bradley, Fabian Johnson and DaMarcus Beasley must have big games for team USA. If Belgium has a weakness, it is at the full back position and these three need to exploit it.

Finally, there can be no more defensive lapses by the backline of the United States. All four goals the U.S. has conceded in the tournament thus far have been defensive miscues by the back line. Not one goal has been given up by simply an impossible to stop strike. Hazard and Lukaku are fantastic and if you make a mistake, they will make you pay.

The United States will need to play physical, fast and defensive if they are to win this game. The Belgians have only allowed one goal during the entire World Cup thus far and it was on a penalty kick. If team USA gets an opportunity, they must convert it.

Two key things to watch for are how they Belgians perform under the pressure and bright lights of the moment. The Red Devils have not made it this far in the tournament since 1986 and their roster is littered with young inexperienced stars that will all be under an intense microscope on Tuesday. For the United States, we want to see if their exhausting travel schedule and inclement weather conditions will have an effect on them physically as it did in their last match against Germany. Look for tired legs and cramps in the second half of the match, and if the game goes to extra time, it could bode well for the Belgians.

The United States should have the fans on their side in Salvador and the 12th man advantage could be the adrenaline boost they need to put them over the edge. They will need a little luck and some Klinsmann magic if they are to advance to the quarterfinals.

The United States needs to keep the game tight and close unlike they did the last time they faced Belgium. The match could go to penalties or extra-time which would not be an ideal situation for team USA as Belgium is well rested. As much as America may hate me, I think Belgium’s talent prevails in a high anxiety game.

My Prediction: Belgium sneaks by the United States late. 2-1 Belgium.

Betting odds courtesy of

Belgium:  -½ (-Even)   //   (Even) Moneyline
USA:        +½ (-120)   //    +275 Moneyline
Draw +250