The Norman Transcript

National Sports

July 1, 2014

U.S. confident with history at stake against Belgium

SALVADOR, Brazil — They know the eyes of the United States will be on them from thousands of miles away, and they say they are ready.

The Americans try to reach the World Cup quarterfinals for the first time since 2002 when they play Belgium today.

“For some of the guys, it’s the last opportunity, so we have to make the most of it,” U.S. captain Clint Dempsey said. “And I’m sure if we play to the best of our ability, we’ll get a positive result.”

There were two bits of news on the eve of the match. Jozy Altidore has recovered sufficiently from his left hamstring strain to be available, although it appears he is unlikely to start. The forward has not played since the Americans’ June 16 opener, when he was taken off on a stretcher during the first half.

“Just having him with us tomorrow is huge,” U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said Monday, adding Altidore’s time on the field depends on “how much work is in his legs.”

Klinsmann created a stir by saying he isn’t happy with FIFA’s choice of referee, Algeria’s Djamel Haimoudi. His nation was eliminated by the U.S. in 2010, and Algeria played in the same first-round group as Belgium.

“Is it a good feeling? No,” Klinsmann said at a news conference.

Belgium coach Marc Wilmots dismissed Klinsmann’s comments, saying: “If we start going into this, it is looking for excuses ahead of the match.”

The United States and Belgium haven’t played in the World Cup since the first tournament in 1930, a 3-0 win by the Americans.

A lot more people are following now. The U.S. averaged more than 18 million viewers on ESPN and Spanish-language Univision for its three first-round games, and viewing parties are scheduled for today ranging from Solider Field in Chicago to Veteran’s Park in Redondo Beach, California.

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