Belgium has won six matches in a row and it was one of four 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil teams to accrue maximum group points but, to borrow a line from American rappers Public Enemy, do not believe the hype about the Red Devils.
Every second pundit’s 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil dark horse, Belgium was unimpressive in accumulating nine Group H points from its matches versus Algeria (which it trailed), Russia, which it was no better for the first 88 minutes) and South Korea (which was so bad that it could not strike a blow against a second-string Red Devils side down to 10 men).
Belgium’s pre-2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil form was patchy – it won 2-0 in Sweden but lost 0-2 to Colombia and 2-3 to Japan on home soil – and nothing that the Red Devils have produced in the tournament has changed one’s view that they are a long way short of the top teams. One of Belgium’s big problems is that it does not have a single natural fullback in its squad so its opponents – at least its smart opponents – occupy the central channel and invite the Red Devils wide defenders to go forward. Belgium has got away its flaws in the tournament so far but life is about to get tougher.
United States of America coach Jurgen Klinsmann thinks that his Stars and Stripes side can beat Belgium and one agrees with him. The United States of America’s narrow midfield is tailor made to deny Belgium space in the central channel, which is the key to frustrating and, ultimately, defeating the Red Devils. One does not rate the United States of America all that highly – one thinks that the Stars and Stripes were lucky to finish ahead of Ghana in 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group G – but Klinsmann’s energetic team matches up well against Belgium, which could be without two of its first-choice defenders, Vincent Kompany and Thomas Vermaelen, for the sudden-death showdown in Salvador.
The United States of America is trading at odds of 4.50 with Coral, Ladbrokes and William Hill to knock out Belgium from the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil without extra time and/or penalties. Punters who want the safety net of extra time and/or penalties can get odds of 3.00 with Coral that the United States of America reaches the FIFA World Cup last eight for the first time since the 2002 competition.
Argentina and Switzerland meet in the day’s other 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil round of 16 game and La Albiceleste will be hoping for more magic from their number 10, Lionel Messi.
Like Belgium, Argentina did not impress one during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil group stage and it was reliant on four moments of Messi brilliance to get the better of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iran and Nigeria. None of Argentina’s other big names has lit up the tournament but, with La Albiceleste’s opponents assigning two or three players to mark Messi, it is a matter of time before someone else produces the goods.
Argentina and Switzerland played a Berne friendly match in 2012 and Messi won the game on his own, converting two passes from Sergio Aguero and scoring a stoppage-time penalty kick in La Albiceleste’s 3-1 away victory. One acknowledges, though, that Argentina and Switzerland were level at the 87th-minute mark until Messi went ballistic.
One thinks that bookmakers have got the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil clash between Argentina and Switzerland spot on. It is very difficult to get enthusiastic about Switzerland and yet odds of 1.50 about an Argentina win in regulation time do not excite. Perhaps the pick of the betting options is a punt on Gonzalo Higuain at odds of 2.80 with 888sport and Unibet to score at any time. Higuain is Argentina’s central striker and he bagged nine goals in 11 appearances during qualifying for the tournament. The focus on Messi has to result in Argentina’s other stars getting time and space.