The World Cup: U.S. Battles Belgium - Rolling Stone
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Flagrant 2: The U.S. Battles Belgium at the World Cup

It’s Team U.S.A. versus the Red Devils, with the future of waffles on the line

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The United States team pose for a photo prior to the FIFA World Cup Brazil group G match in Recife, Brazil.

Michael Steele/Getty Images

For once, we’re with Waffle House.

Yes, as the U.S. national team prepares to take on Belgium at the World Cup, the South’s leading purveyor of all things scattered, smothered and covered has called for a nationwide boycott of Belgian waffles…which is convenient, considering they’re not on the chain’s menu (the same cannot be said for the traitorous International House of Pancakes).

The Power of ‘Believe:’ The U.S. Plays for More at the World Cup

“We’ve never served Belgian waffles at Waffle House,” spokesperson Meghan Irwin proudly proclaimed. “And we just want to support team USA.”

Damn right. So, in solidarity with our brothers and sisters at Waffle House, we’re dedicating all of this morning’s Flagrant 2 to the boys in the red, white and blue (or, depending on which kit they wear, mostly just white). A spot in the World Cup quarterfinals is on the line, and really, it doesn’t matter that Belgian waffles are not actually eaten in Belgium. Today, they are our enemies.

The Breakdown 

The U.S. went into last week’s match against Germany knowing that win, lose or draw, they stood a pretty good shot of advancing to the knockout stage. And they played that way. But against Belgium, they’ll need to be at their very best.

Despite their showing so far – three wins in the Group Stage, none of which were particularly convincing – the Red Devils are considered by many to be dark-horse contenders at this World Cup, a team led by the attacking Eden Hazard and Dries Mertens, anchored by Marouane Fellaini and backed by Thibaut Courtois, who may just be the best goalkeeper in the tournament. They are deep and dangerous. They steamrolled the competition during Cup qualification, too, winning 8-of-10 matches against European teams (only the Netherlands and Germany, both of whom are into the quarterfinals already, won more) so the potential to dominate is there. Watch, and be terrified:

Yet this is also the youngest team in the tournament, and their inexperience has shown throughout. The Belgians have also been bitten by the injury bug:  The status of center back Vincent Kompany, recovering from a groin injury, is unknown, and defender Thomas Vermaelen is battling a leg injury. Reserve defender Anthony Vanden Borre is out with a broken fibula.

But if you think the U.S. will be intimidated, you haven’t been paying attention. They did not back down to Portugal – a team that, like Belgium, likes to bring pressure from the wings – and though they were largely listless against Germany, they certainly had opportunities to get out of that match with a draw. Once again, the Americans will lean on Jermaine Jones and Kyle Beckerman, and DaMarcus Beasley and Fabian Johnson will be counted on to contain Belgium’s wingers, but they need help. The question is: Where will it come from?

The availability of Jozy Altidore, out since the opener with a hamstring injury, is uncertain. Will midfielder Michael Bradley, an afterthought to this point, contribute? Can coach Jurgen Klinsmann continue to push the right buttons, and find someone on his bench – Wondo? – who can provide a spark? Against a talented team, it’s never good to have questions, but considering how banged up the Belgians are, and their shaky showing to date, the U.S. has a puncher’s chance in this one. And with this team, that might be enough.

Kickoff is at 4 p.m. ET. Believe. 

The Inspiration

You probably don’t need additional motivation for this one…but just in case Belgium doesn’t inspire the necessary vitriol, well, we’ve got some for you. Commence 10,000 push-ups.

And some bonus propoganda: American hero Steven Seagal throwing shade at Belgium’s greatest export, Jean-Claude Van Damme

Yeah, screw the Muscles from Brussels. Let’s go U.S.A.!

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