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Difficult, talented Belgium next for USA

Belgium's Nicolas Lombaerts heads the ball over South

Belgium's Nicolas Lombaerts heads the ball over South Korea's Koo Ja-cheol during the Group H World Cup soccer match between South Korea and Belgium at the Itaquerao Stadium in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Thursday, June 26, 2014. Credit: AP / Thanassis Stavrakis

RECIFE, Brazil - At this juncture of the World Cup, it doesn't matter what team you play as long as you are still playing.

In the Round of 16, the United States will face Belgium -- a team it hasn't beaten in 84 years -- in Salvador on Tuesday.

The Americans recorded a 3-0 victory over the Belgians in the very first World Cup in 1930 in Montevideo, Uruguay, before a long drought ensued.

Since then, they have lost four consecutive times to Belgium, including a sound 4-2 defeat in Cleveland last year.

That prospect did not faze the USA after it booked a second-round berth despite losing to Germany, 1-0, in its Group G finale Thursday.

The Americans will quickly put that result behind them.

"It doesn't matter what you do in the group stages," captain Clint Dempsey said. "It's what you do on that day. Either you stay or you go home. You want to stay. You want to be in the tournament as long as possible and to see how far you can go."

Belgium (3-0-0) boasts one of its best Cup teams in years with world-class players such as goaltender Thibaut Courtois, forward Eden Hazard, midfielder Dries Mertens and defender Vincent Kompany. The Belgians clinched the Group H title with a 1-0 win over South Korea Thursday.

"They're another top team with a lot of quality players on their side," Dempsey said. "In the knockout stage, anybody can go through if you bring it on that day. We'll do everything that we can and make sure that we put in the work that we need to and hopefully play to the best of our ability, and if we do that, I think we'll get a result."

After the grind of the opening round, goalkeeper Tim Howard had his priorities straight. Said Howard, "We are going to try and get as much rest as we can."

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