RIO DE JANEIRO — The United States takes on Belgium for a place in the World Cup quarterfinals today, a few hours after the day’s action gets underway with Lionel Messi’s Argentina playing Switzerland.
Living up to expectations, Messi has been the key to Argentina’s run to the last 16, scoring four of his team’s six goals. There’ll likely be more to come from the Barcelona star, who has been decisive in matches in Brazil without dominating the play.
The U.S. has already done well to emerge from a tough group, behind Germany but ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal, and should be a match for a talented Belgium lineup.
What to watch today
Belgium vs. United States: The stakes are high, but still expect the United States to show a more attacking game against Belgium after lacking bite so far in the tournament. The Americans only managed the second-lowest number of attacks out of the 32 teams during the group stage, with just 72.
Speaking after the U.S. lost 1-0 to Germany, U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said: “We will work ... to shift our entire game up forward. So that will put more pressure on the opponents and create more chances.”
Belgium’s main threat will come from the creative skills of playmaker Eden Hazard, who provided two decisive assists in group stage victories over Russia and Algeria.
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.
Argentina vs. Switzerland: Argentina has seemed like a one-man team at this tournament, with Lionel Messi almost single-handedly helping his teammates into the second round. Now that striker Sergio Aguero has been ruled out with a thigh strain, coach Alejandro Sabella is expected to turn to Ezequiel Lavezzi to sharpen the attack and hopefully ease some of the pressure on Messi.