Belgium began the World Cup as a fashionable pick to plow deep into the bracket. Even with nothing but wins, the team has made its backers feel as unfashionable as a plaid shirt paired with striped pants.
To start living up to their billing, the Belgians would be advised to check off the following five boxes against the U.S.
-- Score sooner than they have been to widen their margin of error. Their four goals have been registered in the 70th, 78th, 80th and 88th minutes. That is cutting it close, especially with all games decided by one goal.
-- Get healthy in a hurry. Captain Vincent Kompany (strained groin), Thomas Vermaelen (strained hamstring), Laurent Ciman (strained abductor) and Marouane Felliani (thigh) are keeping team doctors busy. All are iffy. Anthony Vanden Borre (cracked fibula) is done for the duration.
-- Force the Americans to earn their scoring attempts. They have limited firepower -- with or without Jozy Altidore -- and might need help to score with giveaways or haphazard clearing. However, a winger and a midfielder might slide in for ailing Belgian fullbacks, thus raising the risk of errors on the back line.
-- Get a typical gem in goal from Thibaut Courtois. Team USA would be hesitant to trade its gifted captain, Tim Howard, for many goalkeepers. Courtois might be one of them.
-- Start playing up to their talent level -- and not down to their lack of World Cup seasoning. Only one player had experienced the tournament before. But their young roster is loaded with Premier League players. Three games in, they should have shed all nerves by now.