Jun 30, 2014, 7:44 AM EDT
Heading into Tuesday round of 16 clash between Belgium and the USA, both camps have been complimenting one another in rather cordial exchanges.
Now it is Belgium’s turn.
On Sunday U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard warned his teammates of Romelu Lukaku’s talents, as the Chelsea striker spent the entire 2013-14 season on loan at Howard’s club Everton. Now of Howard’s Everton teammates has returned the favor, as speedy winger Kevin Mirallas has talked up the USA’s veteran goalkeeper.
[ RELATED: Analyze the round of 16 matches, schedule, times ]
Speaking ahead of the match vs. the U.S. in Salvador on Tuesday, Mirallas praised Howard and Clint Dempsey and insisted that Belgium will not be underestimating Jurgen Klinsmann’s side.
“Tim is a superb goalkeeper, one of the 10 best in the world,” Mirallas said. “Along with our goalkeeper, Thibault Courtois, he is one of the best at the World Cup, and he has lots of great qualities. USA have done very well and they are an excellent team. They have very good players, particularly Clint Dempsey, and we have to pay attention to them.
“We are making history and I hope that all the team is ready to continue doing so. We are more excited than nervous. It is the first time for most of us on this stage, but we know the whole country is behind us.”
Mirallas’ comments back up what most U.S. fans have already seen thus far in the tournament. Despite the strong play of Matt Besler, Fabian Johnson, Jermaine Jones and others, the outside world see Howard and Dempsey as the face of this U.S. squad. If Klinsmann’s men are going to advance to the quarterfinals for the first-time since 2002 and beat Belgium, Howard will have to come up with big stops and Dempsey will need to score clutch goals. Nothing new there. Howard has allowed four goals so far, but came up with monster saves against Portugal and Germany when the U.S. needed him most, as for Dempsey, he has struck twice at crucial moments with his early goal vs. Ghana and late tap in against Portugal crucial in nabbing the U.S. qualification to the knockout stages.
Belgium are prepared and aren’t underestimating the challenge ahead.
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