TIME World Cup

The Soccer Net: A Popular Destination for World Cup Players

Players have taken to the net in celebration, frustration and disappointment

TIME World Cup

Here’s How World Cup Fans Represent Their Favorite Soccer Icons

Messi. Suarez. Rooney. Around the world, fans construct idols, some more creative than others, of their favorite players.

TIME World Cup

World Cup Cheat Sheet: No Tim Howard, But Some Great Games Ahead

Brazil FIFA World Cup 2014-Argentina v Switzerland-Round of 16
Messi dribbles at the Arena Corinthians in Sao Paulo, Brazil on July 1, 2014. Reinaldo Coddou—H./Pixath/SIPA

Bummer about the U.S., isn’t it? Tim Howard deserved another game just on his performance alone. But let’s be honest, you can’t suddenly start attacking after you’re down 2-0 and expect to win. Lack of attack is what often happens as underdog teams get deeper into the World Cup. But the quarterfinals promise a lot more attacking, and are well worth watching, even if you’re just a casual fan.

France vs. Germany (Friday, 12 noon ET): No European team ever lacks motivation to play against Germany. The grudge list of history is too long. But for France, it’s more about redeeming the reputation of Les Bleus, which the team trashed in the 2010 World Cup, following a player revolt against Raymond Domenech, the coach from another planet. Relatively speaking, the current French squad is playing blissfully. Coach Didier Deschamps has a lot of buttons to push, from precocious Paul Pogba and the vibrant Mathieu Valbuena in the midfield, Karim Benzema and Olivier Giroud up front and the world-class Hugo Lloris in goal. Germany has looked less impressive every game so far, gasping for air against the suffocating Algerian pressure until Andre Schuerrle rescued die Mannschaft in extra time. Germany coach Joachim Loew is probably busy tinkering with the parts of his Bayern Munich-centered team —Thomas Mueller, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Philipp Lahm— as well as the lethargic Mesut Özil, to get them to produce more power. Right now Loew has a Mercedes sedan and he needs an F-1 model. The Germans, as you know, are very good mechanics. This game is going to be about French style vs. German muscle, and style is looking good.

Brazil vs. Colombia (Friday 4 p.m.): Which team would you rather be coaching? The glamorous home side, the famous Seleção of Brazil, or the guys from the country nearby? Brazil coach Big Phil Scolari’s team was on the verge of collectively wetting its pants against Chile. The pressure to win is so great that Scolari had to bring in a psychologist to consult some emotion-wracked players after the narrow penalty-kick shootout win over the Chileans. But if you are Colombia’s coach José Pekerman, you can just tell your team, “Take it to’em, boys.” Colombia is a team playing without its leading scorer but, more importantly, playing without fear. And it has the wondrous James Rodriguez in the middle—the Monaco man’s price has skyrocketed during this tournament— creating highlight reel goals. Colombia will feel free to go at Brazil’s vulnerable defense, which features wingbacks like Marcelo who just hate hanging around their own end of the field. Brazil will also be missing Luis Gustavo, who has held its midfield together. Brazil’s offense, run by the endlessly inventive Neymar, lacks any cohesive imagination in its attack. There’s no beauty in Brazil’s beautiful game at moment. The Seleção had better find some, or the party could well end this weekend.

Argentina vs. Belgium (Saturday 12 p.m.): Game after game, Argentina has faced opponents trying to frustrate its attack at all costs. The Swiss erected massed ranks of defenders in front of its goal like so many Alps, and waited to counterattack. It’s a strategy that almost worked but for another burst of genius from Lionel Messi to set up Angel di Maria’s winning goal. Belgium, like Switzerland, is a small country, but unlike the Swiss, the Belgians are loaded with talent. They are here to play, not defend. Against the U.S., midfielder Kevin de Bruyne spent 68% of the game in the American end of the field, leading endless attacks. So did Eden Hazard, whose penchant for getting behind defenses should worry Argentina. Then again, if Messi is on your team, you can relax a little bit, knowing that he’s capable of miracles. Not that Argentina should need them. In a wide-open game, with players like di Maria and Sergio Aguero surging forward, this match could restore the high scoring that marked the group stage, and should restore Argentina as a favorite to win it all.

Netherlands vs. Costa Rica (Saturday 4 p.m.): The Ticos are one of the last teams that anyone would figure to reach the quarters, but its qualifying and World Cup run has been impressive. Costa Rica beat Uruguay, Italy and Greece, and drew with England. Led by Bryan Ruiz, who only recently had a hard time getting a game with Fulham, the Ticos have also handled Mexico, a team that gave the Oranje fits in the round of 16. Still, any team featuring Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder is going to be a handful, as Spain learned. Each player has the ability to change a game in an instant, although Robben’s conspicuous diving—it ought to be a red card offense— is hardly recommended viewing. Don’t expect the Ticos to be awed by this much talent; do expect them to be done in by it.

 

TIME World Cup

The 16 Best Photos From the World Cup’s Round of 16

The celebrations, the heartaches, and the sometimes gravity-defying saves and goals that made this leg of the tournament all pins-and-needles

TIME World Cup

Belgium Beat the U.S. Because They Played a Better Game

Even the Herculean efforts of Tim Howard couldn't outdo the U.S. opposition's

+ READ ARTICLE

Finally, Tim Howard could no longer save his team. Two minutes into overtime, Belgium’s Kevin De Bruyne collected yet another loose ball after yet another U.S. breakdown, to score past Howard to take a 1-0 lead in their round-of-16 game. And when Romelu Lukaku added what seemed to be the finishing touch from a De Bruyne assist a few minutes later, the American World Cup dream finally looked to be over. The disappointment was coast to coast, as millions of people stopped work or gathered in stadiums and outdoor venues to watch.

Then the game exploded back to life. Down two goals in extra time, U.S. coach Jürgen Klinsmann played his last card, the German-American teenager Julian Green, brought on for a sniff of Cup experience. But when the fresh-legged Green connected with Michael Bradley’s pass to flick the ball past Thibaut Courtois with his first touch, it was suddenly game on. Late, very late, too late, the Americans took the initiative. A Jermaine Jones flick went just wide. At 113 minutes a rare designed play on a free kick — Bradley to Jones to Clint Dempsey — nearly sprung the trap, with Courtois providing the game-saving block against Dempsey. Jones smashed one high four minutes later.

To be blunt, this was a game that Belgium richly deserved to win. The Red Devils were the better team and maintained nearly constant pressure on the U.S. defense for the bulk of the game. With Eden Hazard running down the left wing and De Bruyne everywhere else, the Red Devils tilted the playing field from the early minutes. The first U.S. shot didn’t take place until the 21st minute, when Jones, who had an incredible World Cup, swept a pass toward Courtois, who was largely untroubled until that incredible overtime.

Amazingly enough, the U.S. had a chance to steal the game in regulation, during injury time when substitute Chris Wondolowski — another surprise move by Klinsmann — found himself alone in front of goal with Jones’ headed pass settling at his feet. But Wondo whiffed, sweeping the ball high and wide with his right foot, and American chances for a smash-and-grab job went with it.

In soccer, you get punished for giving up possession. It happened to Switzerland earlier in the day against Argentina. And throughout the course of a lopsided game, Belgium almost made the U.S. pay dearly for its lack of possession of the football. But there was Howard to bail them time and time, again. But eventually, something has to give. “It’s a bummer,” said Klinsmann. “We were so close. But I think we can all be very, very proud of this team.” So does an entirely new generation of American fans.

TIME

PHOTO: Obama Surprises World Cup Watchers, Chants For Team USA

He believes that USA will win

President Barack Obama joined the World Cup-watching bandwagon at a viewing party in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House Tuesday afternoon. Obama led about 200 White House staffers in a chant of: “I believe that we will win!” after entering to watch the game around halftime.

“So I was worried that if I walked in and Belgium scored, I’d get in trouble — oh no!,” quipped Obama.

According to White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, Obama had been meeting with his national security team around the game’s start time.

While Obama was watching at the Eisenhower Building, reporters at the White House had a viewing party of their own going:

 

 

TIME World Cup

Epic Photos From the USA vs. Belgium World Cup Match

The United States and Belgium are facing off Tuesday afternoon in the 16th round of the World Cup. These pictures take you inside the action

TIME World Cup

Waffle House Boycotts Belgian Waffles in World Cup Solidarity

Liege waffle with fresh berries and whipped cream at Locolat in Washington, DC.
Liege waffle with fresh berries and whipped cream at Locolat in Washington, DC. Evy Mages—Washington Post/Getty Images

Just call them 'freedom waffles'

The United States has a new World Cup ally against Belgium: Waffle House.

In advance of Team USA’s Tuesday match against Belgium, the breakfast chain has gone to extensive lengths on Twitter to clarify that they do not—and will not—serve Belgian waffles.

The patriotic message was retweeted over 17,000 times as of this writing. And the Georgia-based restaurant chain did not stop there, continuing to tweet clarifications that they have never served Belgian waffles. It’s also cheering along the American soccer team ahead of its do-or-die match.

Waffle House was not alone in denying any Belgian connection. Beer company Budweiser, which is owned by a company based in Belgium, tweeted a video featuring an American bald eagle and a cheerleader in red, white and blue.

America faces off against Belgium in Brazil at 4 p.m. ET Tuesday.

TIME World Cup

Everything You Need to Know About the USA-Belgium World Cup Match

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The United States Men’s National Team will play Belgium in round 16 of the World Cup Tuesday afternoon. It’s a pretty big deal, and people are appropriately excited. (See official pump up video for the game above in case you need help on that front).

Considering a lot of newbies will be tuning in, here’s a guide to everything you need to know about the big game:

What time is it? USA and Belgium will start at 4 p.m. EST

How long does it last? Games are 90 minutes long, with a halftime that must not exceed 15 minutes. There’s also some extra time added to each 45-minute half to account for various stoppages, like injuries. If the game’s tied after 90 minutes plus stoppage time, USA and Belgium will play for another 30 minutes, divided into two 15-minute halves (plus yet even more stoppage time!).

If the teams are still tied after that, the game gets decided on penalty kicks, as the Brazil-Chile match was.

How does a team win? Scoring in tournament soccer can be confusing. Some were confused that the United States won and moved on to the 16th round after a 0-1 loss to Germany, for example. But this round of the World Cup is simpler: The team with the most points at the end of the game wins and moves on to play the winner of today’s Argentina-Switzerland match. The losing side goes home empty-handed.

How do I watch? Viewers can tune in on ESPN and Univision. If you’re stuck TV-less at the office, there are livestream options at ESPN.com for people who have cable log-in information. You can also follow ESPN’s Gamecast (a live blog with updated illustrations) or ESPN Radio’s broadcast. Univision will provide free streaming video in Spanish.

How do the teams rank? FIFA ranked Belgium eleventh and USA thirteenth in the world. Renowned data journalist Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com ranks Belgium ninth and USA eighteenth.

Who is favored to win? Belgium. But according to the Los Angeles Times, that might not be a bad thing for the U.S. since “this World Cup hasn’t been kind to favorites.” Example: Spain was the world’s top ranked team and went home during the group portion of the tournament. (And then the team’s flight home was struck by lightning).

TIME World Cup

Belgium a Dynamic Test for USA Amid High Expectations, Golden Generation

Belgium 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil
Daniel Van Buyten of Belgium acknowledges the fans after a 1-0 victory in a 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil match against South Korea on June 26 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Phil Walter—Getty Images

"I feel like the people [in Belgium] are confident they’re going to beat the U.S.”

sportsillustrated

By Brian Straus

SALVADOR, Brazil – They may not chant it like their American counterparts, but Belgians also believe that they will win.

Two years of hype, their players’ success at the club level and three wins during the World Cup’s group stage have Red Devils fans feeling pretty good heading into Tuesday’s round-of-16 showdown with the U.S. here in Brazil’s original capital. That’s according to American midfielder Sacha Kljestan, who’s had a front-row seat on Belgium’s emergence as a World Cup contender while playing for Brussels-based power Anderlecht, which claimed its third consecutive league title in May.

“Every car has Belgian flags on it. People are wearing the jerseys everywhere. People are behind the team and I do think they’re fully expecting to beat the U.S.,” said Kljestan, who left MLS for Brussels in 2010 and fell short of earning a spot in Jurgen Klinsmann’s World Cup roster. “Belgium played them twice in the last three years [in exhibitions] and won both times. I don’t know if the national team is going to be overconfident but I feel like the people here are confident they’re going to beat the U.S.”

Belgium defeated Klinsmann and Co., 1-0, in Brussels in Sept. 2011, shortly after the new coach took over, and then again, 4-2, last year in Cleveland.

After Surviving Hard Group, USA Turns Focus to Set New World Cup Standard

U.S. defender Omar Gonzalez said there were mitigating circumstances in 2013, when the Americans had just one day of training before facing Belgium. But nine of the 11 U.S. starters that day have been key contributors at this World Cup, and they were torn apart by the talented and dynamic Red Devils. That match was indicative of Belgium’s performance over the past two years. It stormed through World Cup qualifying, finishing 8-0-2 in a group that included Croatia and Serbia, and has lost only three of 24 games in that span, all friendlies.

“It’s a very good team, a team full of players who are playing at the highest level in Europe for the biggest clubs,” U.S. midfielder Michael Bradley said. “A country that doesn’t have the history of Germany or Italy or some of these countries, but when you look over the past few years, when you look at the quality of their players, it certainly has to be talked about as one of the best teams in Europe.”

Indeed, Belgium lacks that history. Its heyday came in the 1980s, when it won the silver medal at the 1980 European Championship and finished fourth at the World Cup six years later. But like many of Europe’s second-tier soccer nations, Belgium had difficulty sustaining its success. It’s most recent appearance at a major tournament (before this summer) came back at the 2002 World Cup. Those fallow periods aren’t uncommon. Countries like Sweden, Turkey, Croatia or Portugal will find themselves blessed with a “golden generation” of players, make a run and then fall back to the pack, hoping the cycle eventually repeats itself.

For Belgium, that time is now.

“They have only one player, [Daniel] van Buyten, who’s even played in a World Cup or a European Championship before, so I think they’re trying to be realistic,” Kljestan said. “But it’s hard not to get your hopes up when you see how talented the group is.”

WATCH: World Cup Round of 16 Preview: USA vs. Belgium

Fourteen of the 23 players on Belgium’s roster were on the books at clubs that competed in last season’s UEFA Champions League (if you count Julian Green, a Bayern Munich reserve, the U.S. had two), and that doesn’t include the men who turn out for the likes of Liverpool, Tottenham Hotpsur and Everton. Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and right back Toby Alderweireld won La Liga, and nearly the Champions League, with Atlético Madrid.

Kljestan said he couldn’t put his finger on the precise reason for the Belgian renaissance, but he does have a few ideas. He recalled the visit his older brother, Gordon, paid to Brussels in 2011. A retired midfielder who bounced between MLS and the U.S. minor leagues, Gordon Kljestan now works for the L.A. Galaxy. Back in 2011, he was helping the MLS club with its youth development and spent time studying the system at Anderlecht, which produced the likes of Belgium and Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany, Manchester United’s Marouane Fellaini and Adnan Januzaj and Everton (on loan from Chelsea) striker Romelu Lukaku.

“They start them young here,” Sacha Kljestan said. “The Anderlecht academy has children at under-6 and Gordon saw a group of like 10, 11, 12 year-olds, they did a thing every other day at school – most of them went to the same school – where just before lunch they took an hour and did a technical training session. And then they had their lunch and went back to class. That’s something we would never dream about doing in the U.S.”

Not every academy player attends the same school, but Anderlecht helps arrange it for those who want to, including for kids who might hail from elsewhere but choose to live with a family in Brussels.

Belgium’s Unheralded Divock Origi, 19, Makes Most of World Cup Call

They have players playing multiple positions, too,” Kljestan said. “When they bring guys up to the first team that are young guys, they stick a forward out on the wing a little bit, move them around, and these guys know how to play. I think they just understand soccer. They can’t just play one – they have to have an understanding how to play multiple positions. That’s important in the learning process.”

That education helps forge chemistry at the World Cup level. No team has won the sport’s most coveted trophy without at least 10 players from its domestic league on the tournament roster. Belgium has only three. Kljestan said there may not be a “specific Belgian style of play,” but the tactical and technical training its players get from a young age helps them adapt and thrive.

“People compare Belgium and Holland because they’re right next to each other,” he said. “I think Belgium is a more organized, defensive league and I guess you can see that in their national team. I think Belgium is really well organized and their defense is really strong. That’s their most important piece.”

Belgium yielded just one goal during the first round, although no one would claim that a quartet including Algeria, Russia and South Korea was among the tournament’s toughest. It faces significant injury issues heading into Tuesday’s match with the U.S. The charismatic Kompany is questionable with a groin issue and was scheduled to train with his team Monday evening. Arsenal’s Thomas Vermaelen, an outside back, is out with a hurt hamstring and Kljestan’s Anderlecht teammate, Anthony Vanden Borre, will miss the rest of the World Cup with a fractured ankle.

“They have a ton of replacements who are really good,” Kljestan said. “I don’t think [Kompany] will miss the game. I think he’ll play through it. But whoever steps in, they still have a really good defense.”

Van Buyten will play in front of Courtois, perhaps alongside Nicolas Lombaerts (Zenit St. Petersburg), while Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham) and Alderweireld are likely starters on the flanks. Further up the field, the offense will run through midfielder Kevin De Bruyne (VfL Wolfsburg), rover Eden Hazard (Chelsea) and Lukaku, with multiple talented pieces around them.

WATCH: U.S. Players Look to Seize Moment in Round of 16 vs. Belgium

Kljestan said the U.S. was prepped during the group stage to face a dynamic attack like Belgium’s. Both Ghana and Germany were quick and mobile and the Americans handled themselves well with a plan that also might work on Tuesday.

“The best defense is defending from the inside out,” he said. “Make them keep the ball wide and obviously our strength is dealing with balls coming into the box. Whether Omar is playing or Geoff [Cameron] is playing, that’s their strong point – clearing and winning balls in the box.”

Belgium’s soft spot also may be on the flanks.

Scenic, Historic Salvador Provides Backdrop to USA’s Knockout Clash

“If there’s a weakness with Belgium, I think it’s their outside backs,” Kljestan said, adding that U.S. fullback Fabian Johnson could be critical to the U.S. attack if he’s able to find opportunities to run at the Belgian rearguard.

“He’s been great for the U.S. and I think he’ll be a factor,” in Salvador, Kljestan said.

That weakness is relative, however. Front to back, this is as strong a team as the Americans have faced under Klinsmann. What Belgium lacks in international pedigree it makes up for in week-in, week-out seasoning at the sport’s biggest clubs, not to mention sheer talent.

“[We’ve got to] stick to our game plan. We’ve been doing well, I think, defensively. We’ve been trying to contain teams. I think our football going forward has been very good [and] we need to find a way to bottle up their key players. But they have so many of them, it’ll be difficult,” said U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard, an Everton teammate of Lukaku and midfielder Kevin Mirallas.

“They’re known around Europe as just one of the up-and-coming, really hungry and talented teams. All of their players are playing at top clubs. Certain guys who are playing at top clubs can’t even get in [Belgium’s] starting lineup, because there’s other guys keeping them out. It’s a young, hungry, really fit, strong, team. They’ve got all the qualities of being great. So hopefully they won’t take flight quite yet.”

This article originally appeared on SI.com.

WATCH: SI Now: Should Altidore Play Against Belgium?

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