In order for the U.S. men's national team to advance into the quarterfinals of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, the Americans are going to have to go through a familiar foe to do so: Belgium.
In each of the last two years, Belgium faced off against the Americans in friendlies as both teams prepared for the World Cup, and beat USA in dominating fashion, 4-2, at Cleveland Browns Stadium on May 29, 2013.
"They're another top team with a lot of quality players on their side," USA captain Clint Dempsey said. "(With) the knockout stage, anybody can go through if you bring it on that day. We'll do everything that we can and make sure we put in the work that we need to, and hopefully, play to the best of our ability. If we do that, I think we can get a result."
The Americans advanced to the knockout stage on goal differential over Portugal after finishing play in "The Group of Death" with a 1-1-1 record. After defeating Ghana in the opening match, the Americans carried a 2-1 lead into extra time against Portugal. However, the Portuguese scored the equalizer with only 30 seconds left in the game.
Then, they fell to Germany, 1-0, last Thursday in the final game in Group G.
"When you start with Ghana, then, we go to Manaus and we're going to see Cristiano Ronaldo and then, we're going to face Germany, that's all gone now," U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. "It's really just a good feeling because we'll just talk about one team to beat at a time, and this is why I'm really excited about the next step now.
"It is very different because there's a very clear picture in front of you. You've got to win the game. No matter how, you've got to win it in extra time, you've got to win it in a penalty shootout, so this is what you prepare for, one game at a time. In the group phase, everybody makes the numbers and says, 'If this happens, if that happens. What are the other teams doing?'
"It's a good feeling because it's really just a clear picture for everyone. Just focus on that one, specific opponent that you will have in your next game. There is no focus on who could be the next opponent. Whoever it is, we will be prepared. We can't really wait to start that phase now."