U.S. plans to attack unbeaten but underwhelming Belgium

Sun Jun 29, 2014 2:05pm EDT
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By Neil Maidment

SALVADOR Brazil (Reuters) - The United States' declaration of their attacking intentions may awaken the more thrill-seeking instincts of unbeaten but so far underwhelming Belgium as they prepare for "war" in Tuesday's last-16 World Cup clash.

The Belgians came through the group stage with three wins from three against Algeria, Russia and South Korea but failed to hit the heights expected of their exciting, star-studded squad with somewhat lukewarm performances and late shows.

However with talents likes Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku there is time for that to change and the Europeans will be a stiff test for a U.S. side that surprised many by beating off 2010 quarter-finalists Ghana and Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal to qualify alongside Germany in Group G.

The American's mix of organization and physical fitness has been improved by coach Juergen Klinsmann's focus on quick passing moves that have sharpened their attacking edge, and it is that high energy mantra that could unsettle Belgium.

"Physically they are very strong. We are preparing for a war," Belgium coach Marc Wilmots told reporters.

A fast start could be key to the progress of the U.S. who will have noticed that Belgium took until at least the 70th minute to score in all three of their group matches.

"We are going to take it to them," said Klinsmann, whose players' families have been told to change flights home until after the World Cup final. "We believe we have enough confidence now going into this game to beat them. We know we have to go to our extremes to make this happen."

While the Belgians may have stuttered slightly, an unbeaten qualifying campaign extended to their first three World Cup games is enviable and does support their ranking as fifth favorites with bookmakers going into the tournament.   Continued...

Belgium's Romelu Lukaku reacts after missing to a chance to score during their 2014 World Cup Group H soccer match against Russia at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro June 22, 2014. REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo