Argentina-Belgium has offensive stars to restart World Cup excitement

The Baltimore Sun

Yesterday in one sentence: The gap between the Americans’ loss and these matches didn’t really help anyone’s World Cup fever sustain itself, as France and Germany was kind of boring and Brazil won the battle against Colombia but lost the war as Neymar will miss the rest of the tournament with a fractured vertebra.

What's on tap: Argentina vs. Belgium, noon, ABC; Netherlands vs. Costa Rica, 4 p.m., ESPN.

What you’ll see: Hopefully, better matches than yesterday’s slugfest in Rio or snoozefest in Fortaleza. The attacking talent in the Argentina-Belgium match hopefully ensures that.

The Belgians hopefully didn’t have their confidence shattered by Tim Howard saving all of their shots, and after three uneasy wins in the group, seem to have finally found a lineup that works against the Americans. Divock Origi is emerging as the next star Belgian striker, with service coming from all sides from Eden Hazard, Kevin Mirallas and Kevin De Bruyne.

Argentina has made it this far because of the brilliance of Lionel Messi and the industry of Angel Di Maria on the wing. Belgium was susceptible on the flanks defensively against the United States, and Di Maria, Messi and Ezekiel Levezzi could be primed to exploit it. It’s going to take a great game to rebuild excitement for this tournament, and this is the one that can do it.

The second matchup features sides that, on paper, don’t seem to match up well. The Dutch have scored at will and cruised to this point, though they needed to late goals against Mexico. Could fellow CONCACAF team Costa Rica finish the job? I’d expect a defensive performance from Costa Rica, meaning that the Netherlands will have to fight for every chance and hope to pull it out late yet again.

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