Belgium vs United States comment World Cup 2014: Jurgen Klinsmann has built a team spirit that others can only imagine

Klinsmann has inculcated a playing style recognisable to fans of the British club game

The hardest thing for an international side to do is to play like a club side, with that same unity and cohesion, the ability to attack and defend as one. Even as they went out last night, after two hours of heroic effort, Jurgen Klinsmann’s United States showed that they managed this better than almost anyone else.

Despite the quarter-final line-up, which will include Belgium but not the US, this has been a tournament of overachievers so far, of teams who have found a shared way of playing to take them beyond the limits of their combined individual resources. Costa Rica, who have reached the last eight, are the standard-bearers of these sides but the United States, who produced yet another stirring performance in defeat, have been just as impressive.

That is how the least talented team in Group G got to this stage, managing to scrap their way past Germany, Portugal and Ghana with three admirably cussed, focused performances, just like the one they produced last night.

Klinsmann, who spent much of his playing career in England, has inculcated a playing style recognisable to fans of the British club game.

 

The United States play hard, high up the pitch, snapping into tackles, not holding onto possession for much longer than they need to and moving the ball wide and forward as briskly as possible. They do what any good football team does and play to the strengths of the players that they have.

Tim Howard was imperious in goal for the US Tim Howard was imperious in goal for the US  The approach is not just enjoyable but efficient. It has produced more from his players than any other approach would and so Klinsmann took it with him to Salvador last night, against a Belgian side with far more talent but far less cohesion.

The United States eventually faded but they gave Belgium one of the contests of the tournament, all relentless pressure from the start. Clint Dempsey had their best chance of the first half after he and Michael Bradley chased the Belgian defence off the ball and forced a save from Thibaut Courtois.

Bradley, playing in an advanced midfield role, typified the approach. He is a not a desperately subtle player but he has run further than anyone else at the tournament, and he charged around last night with unquestionable commitment to his team and his manager, not allowing Axel Witsel, Marouane Fellaini or even Vincent Kompany a minute to settle and pick their passes.

Dempsey and Bradley are two of the most experienced players – along with DaMarcus Beasley, who was relentless, selfless and energetic at left-back last night.

But the strength of the Klinsmann vision is not just evident in those players who have worked with him for the longest. Every man in his squad buys into his approach, which is more than can be said of some teams in Brazil.

DeAndre Yedlin, the 20-year-old Seattle Sounders right-back, arrived at this World Cup with just a few minutes of international football to his name and yet when he came on for the injured Fabian Johnson he was excellent, tearing down the right flank, crossing to make openings for Dempsey and Graham Zusi, and dealing impeccably with Eden Hazard – a better player than he will ever have faced before – on the Belgian left-wing.

Even as Belgium started to assert themselves – for the fourth match in a row, they needed second-half substitutes to improve, suggesting that Marc Wilmots is incapable of picking the correct first XI – the United States hung on.

Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler had even more defending to do than they did in the group matches and yet, against a growing Belgian storm, Tim Howard produced one of the goalkeeping performances of the tournament with a dozen saves, many of them excellent.

Howard, immense as he was all game, could do nothing about Kevin de Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku’s goals in extra-time, and the United States are out, but not many teams in Brazil – including some who have progressed to the quarter-finals – have produced anything as admirable and impressive as this.

Life and Style
tech

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again say analysts

News
A Brazilian wandering spider
news

World's most lethal spider found under a bunch of bananas

Life and Style
fashion

British supermodel and hitmaker join forces to launch a 'huge song'

News
news

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge announce they are set to welcome second child in spring

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
gaming

I Am Bread could actually a challenging and nuanced title

Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in the win over QPR
footballInternet reacts to miss shocker for Liverpool striker
Voices
Sol Campbell near his home in Chelsea
voices
News
i100
News
Kimi the fox cub
newsBurberry under fire from animal rights group - and their star, Kimi
Sport
Fans of Palmeiras looks dejected during the match between Palmeiras and Santos
footballPalmeiras fan killed trying to 'ambush' bus full of opposition supporters
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past