The U.S. will play Belgium at 4 p.m. Tuesday in the round of 16 after a tiebreaker with Portugal advanced the U.S. out of pool play and on to the elimination round.
A win will pit the U.S. against the winner between Argentina and Switzerland. Carolina RailHawks coach Colin Clarke said the U.S. got a favorable draw against Belgium, a team he said the U.S. can beat.
Clarke, who scored a goal for Northern Ireland in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, talked with staff writer Nolan McCaskill about the United States-Belgium matchup.
Q: How might the U.S. teams approach differ as it transitions from pool play to the single-elimination tournament?
A: Right now its win or go home. I think Belgium is a very favorable draw. I think its a team that they can give problems to and they can beat. Ultimately, they gotta go out and play without any fear and look to win the game.
Q: Jozy Altidore was cleared to dress for Tuesdays match. If hes healthy enough to be a factor, what does he add to the U.S. team?
A: Hell be big-time if hes able to play. Probably wouldnt start but may be able to come off the bench, if needed. Hopefully that wont be the case. Hes a big, strong forward who can hold the ball up in the system, and he scores goals. Itd be good to have him back, and I think just initially for everybody to see him back and dressed and healthy would really add a big push to the team.
Q: U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann reportedly told his players to book their families return trip for after the World Cup final because theyll be there to the very end. When your coach is showing that much confidence publicly, how does that impact the players?
A: Its a big change from what he said going into the World Cup, so thats a positive. Its the way you gotta look at it right now. Theyre down to those last few games. Anything can happen. Theyve certainly shown a lot of confidence. Theyve had some great results, great performances and, you know, theyve got to go out and play without any fear and play with confidence and go out and look to win the game. Its been a great World Cup so far. Itd be great if they could keep it going for another few games.
Q: Belgium swept its group in pool play with wins over Algeria, Russia and Korea Republic, and only allowed one goal in three games, and that was off a penalty kick. How can the U.S. beat such a dominant defensive team?
A: I think Belgium has sort of been everybodys dark horse. Theyre playing well but they havent been great. They have a couple of question marks themselves regarding injuries to key players. But whatever happens, theyre a team that has done very, very well over the last few years.
The U.S. just gotta go out and play their game, and now is the time for some of those players to step up who havent had a great World Cup. Great opportunity for everybody.
Q: The three U.S. World Cup games averaged 18 million viewers. The game against Portugal was the most watched soccer game in American history, and, outside of Brazil, the most World Cup tickets have been purchased in America. How much does fan support really impact a team and how far can it drive the U.S.?
A: Its big time. We know that from personal experience here. Thats gonna drive them on. Thats gonna give them a lot of confidence. When it comes down to those dying minutes and the game is still in the balance late on, the crowd can really push them on to victory. Its a big advantage for Brazil to be playing at home, but its a big advantage for the U.S., too. Theyre gonna be playing in front of a crowd thats very much supporting their run.