Belgium – USA: match preview
Belgium play the USA tonight with the team facing a baggage of media criticism. Last Friday’s draw with Azerbaijan was just the latest in a series of disappointing results. The current squad has been built up by that same media as the “Golden Generation” but with no results to speak of to-date, fans and pundits are turning against the young squad.
The players have been roasted – if we can still say that – for not being professional enough as they, once again, failed to defend a lead. Despite, or because of, the calls for coach Georges Leekens to be removed from his post, his boss – Philippe Collin – has defended him to the hilt, saying Leekens has the right man-management and tactical skills for the job … and he is Belgian. In other words, they cannot afford Michel Preud’homme or Eric Gerets.
Tonight’s match will be something of an anti-climax and there were 9,000 tickets available at the time of writing. The heady atmosphere that existed at the last home match – the 1-1 draw with Turkey – seems but a distant memory. The team that takes the pitch could well see a few changes from the one that under-achieved in Baku. Jan Vertonghen has returned to Amsterdam after suffering a slight injury while Eden Hazard (suffering from a knock) and Romelu Lukaku (suffering from a lack of confidence) could well see the kick-off from either the bench or the stands.
Standard Liege’s Jelle Van Damme is the favourite to take Vertonghen’s place in the back four, probably at left back with Nic Lombaerts sliding into the middle. Van Damme is Leekens’ type of player as, like Timmy Simons, he would be willing to die for the team. Fulham’s Moussa Dembélé could replace Hazard and it could be either Monchengladbach’s Igor de Camargo or Marvin Ogunjimi to come in for Lukaku. It’s more likely to be De Camargo as the Genk striker is expecting imminent news of his on-off move to Mallorca. While Ogunjimi will looking for white smoke from UEFA’s HQ, all other eyes will be on Leekens’ selection to see if he decides to switch to 4-4-2 with Lukaku starting but with someone like De Camargo alongside him.
The US team is a in a state of transition under new manager, Jurgen Klinsmann. The German coach is still looking for his first win after a 1-1 draw with Mexico and a 1-0 defeat to Costa Rica. Questioned will start to be asked if he suffers a heavy defeat tonight. The side is captained by experienced defender Carlos Bocanegra, now with Rangers, and also contains Tim Howard, Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore. It’s not certain what the make-up of the side will be tonight but I’ve received good reports about playmaker Jose Torres, playing with Mexican side Pachuca. Other players to watch out for are Real Salt Lake’s Kyle Beckerman and, if he plays, FC Dallas’ Bret Shea. Landon Donovan is not in the squad as he stayed behind to play for LA Galaxy last night.
The crowd will also be listening for news of the Austria-Turkey game as some believers are hoping for an Austrian victory. This result, coupled with Belgium defeating Germany (n Germany) and Kazakhstan, with Turkey just taking four points from their home games with Germany and Azerbaijan, could see Belgium into the play-offs. It’s a long long shot.
Finally, it’s interesting to look at the team that Belgium could field based on players who will not be at the Roi Baudouin stadium tonight, either through injury or through non-selection. It’s not too shabby (in 4-4-1-1: Proto (Anderlecht); Odoi (Anderlecht), Boyota, Van Buyten, Vermaelen; Legear, Defour, Vertonghen, Chadli; De Bruyne, Mirallas (Olympiakos).
Expected teams tonight:
Belgium: Mignolet; Alderweireld, Kompany, Lombaerts, Van Damme; Simons, Fellaini, Witsel; Dembélé (or Hazard), De Camargo, Dries Mertens.
Bench: from J-F. Gillet, Derijk (PSV), Ciman, Vossen, Hubert, Vadis Odjidja, Hazard, Ogunjimi, Lukaku, Vleminckx.
USA: Howard; Cherundolo, Goodson, Bocanegra, Castillo; Beckerman, Dempsey, Torres; Rogers, Altidore, Shea.