About a month ago, the prospect of the United States facing off against Belgium in the FIFA World Cup Round of 16 would have been met with a few groans. I'm fairly certain that on the majority of World Cup bracket predictions that had the US escaping Group G -- this group included mine -- their journey would end right about here, with a showdown against the tournament's favorite dark horses.
Throwing out the fact that at this point, all relevant statistical evidence and whatnot are pretty much meaningless in the eyes of the fan, this isn't the Belgium we had signed up for. They've gone from darling dark horses to deadwood for whoever wins the Argentina-Switzerland game after a lackluster group stage and an injury bug that has nailed some of their biggest names.
All of a sudden, the US have more than just a glimmer of hope. The players who we expected to carry the US through the tournament had, in some cases (Bradley), bad group stages, and there's plenty of room for growth from the US team. Why not get Bradley back on his game and Altidore back on the field against a Belgium team seemingly scrambling for
Make no mistake, Belgium is still the favorite, and for good reason. Eden Hazard, Marouane Fellaini, and the rest can be world beaters at their best. But they're not at their best. They haven't been all tournament. They barely edged by Algeria, Russia and South Korea during the group stage by a goal a piece, and the US is better than all of those teams.
I think we're all well aware that even if the US manage to get through this match, their chances of advancing against the masterful Argentina team or the supreme midfield of Switzerland are slim to none. In the end, that's irrelevant. We're the USA, and we don't give a damn about the odds. We just want a chance to dream.