U.S. ready for World Cup showdown against Belgium

United States' Clint Dempsey works out during a training session in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Saturday, June 28, 2014. The U.S. will play against Belgium on Tuesday, July 1, in the round 16 of the 2014 soccer World Cup. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)United States’ Clint Dempsey works out during a training session in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Saturday, June 28, 2014. The U.S. will play against Belgium on Tuesday, July 1, in the round 16 of the 2014 soccer World Cup. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
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SALVADOR, Brazil — They know the eyes of the United States will be on them from thousands of miles away, and they say they are ready.

The Americans try to reach the World Cup quarterfinals for the first time since 2002 when they play Belgium on Tuesday.


SEE ALSO: SNYDER: Turns out, Jurgen Klinsmann pushed the right buttons for U.S.


“For some of the guys, it’s the last opportunity, so we have to make the most of it,” U.S. captain Clint Dempsey said. “And I’m sure if we play to the best of our ability, we’ll get a positive result.”

There were two bits of news on the eve of the match. Jozy Altidore has recovered sufficiently from his left hamstring strain to be available, although it appears he is unlikely to start. The forward has not played since the Americans’ June 16 opener, when he was taken off on a stretcher during the first half.

“Just having him with us tomorrow is huge,” U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said Monday, adding Altidore’s time on the field depends on “how much work is in his legs.”

Klinsmann created a stir by saying he isn’t happy with FIFA’s choice of referee, Algeria’s Djamel Haimoudi. His nation was eliminated by the U.S. in 2010, and Algeria played in the same first-round group as Belgium.

“Is it a good feeling? No,” Klinsmann said at a news conference.

Belgium coach Marc Wilmots dismissed Klinsmann’s comments, saying: “If we start going into this, it is looking for excuses ahead of the match.”

The United States and Belgium haven’t played in the World Cup since the first tournament in 1930, a 3-0 win by the Americans.

A lot more people are following now. The U.S. averaged more than 18 million viewers on ESPN and Spanish-language Univision for its three first-round games, and viewing parties are scheduled for Tuesday ranging from Solider Field in Chicago to Veteran’s Park in Redondo Beach, California.

“The country is paying attention in a way that it’s never done before, and we have a chance to make some history,” U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati said.

President Barack Obama even watched last week from Air Force One.

A victory against Belgium would put the U.S. in a Saturday quarterfinal against Argentina or Switzerland. With kickoff at 4 p.m. EDT, people are expected to leave work early, take extended lunch breaks and sneak looks at online streams from their mobile phones and office desktops.

“It means a lot to us, the energy that comes from the United States,” said Klinsmann, the former German star striker who moved to California in 1998. “You see where the game is going in the United States. You can’t stop it anymore. It’s breaking through.”

The 13th-ranked Americans are in the knockout rounds of consecutive World Cups for the first time. Belgium, ranked 11th after missing the last two World Cups, has won three straight games at soccer’s showcase for the first time.

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