Belgium may be the favorites in the Round of 16 match vs. the USA on Tuesday afternoon (4 pm ET, ESPN/Univision in US, CBC in Canada), but that has not affected the confidence of the US national team. In fact, there is the idea that their battle-tested group-stage run could provide a glimpse towards a path to success, most notably their battle with Portugal.
In a conference call with Houston-based media on Monday, USMNT midfielder Brad Davis likened the Belgians to the Iberian side. After success against Portugal, in a game the US controlled and nearly won before conceding a late equalizer on the final play of the game, Davis believes they have a good chance against a type of team they’ve already proven they can match up well against.
“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.
“It’s going to be a tough game. They have some great players, but without a doubt we feel they’re a team we can beat.”
Davis was not cocky, however. The midfielder was adamant that it would be a tough task to move on against a team with the world-class quality of Belgium. But the comparison between the two European sides is apt.
Both teams allow the opponent to play with the ball, but they also have the skill, especially on the wings, to pressure opposing defenses. Against the Portuguese, the US employed an organized brand of soccer where solid defense led to quality offense.
It’s a style the US could implement once more, although Belgium has shown to be a more cohesive and arguably more talented side than Portugal,.
“I think if we’re compact and smart defensively, I think we’re definitely going to get our chances going forward,” Davis said. “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.”
Davis, who started the Americans' last group stage game against Germany, knows the depth of the USMNT has been one of its hallmarks so far in Brazil.
“It’s definitely been one thing that’s been a positive for us throughout this tournament,” Davis said. “It’s very rare that he [US manager Jurgen Klinsmann] starts the same groups of guys, because even after a win he tries to look and adapt and find the best fit and match-ups all around the field.”
Adapting to Belgium’s attacking ability and talent is the team’s next task.
And while it is a tall one -- a win would mean a jaunt into the quarterfinals for the first time since 2002 -- Davis was convinced that the US team is equipped to reach its goals as long as they continue to believe.
“I think our team’s been playing very well and has a lot of confidence and has been doing some very good things,” Davis said. "The main thing is we have to believe that we really can do something special."
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.