Everything you need to know about Belgium, the U.S.'s opponent in the round of 16
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Belgium finished atop Group H with three wins, which means they will face the U.S. in the round of 16. Coming into the World Cup as the tournament's worst kept secret, Belgium's up and coming golden generation has done well enough, but still hasn't quite reached the inflated expectations that have rapidly grown as these players make names for themselves in Europe's top leagues. So in the interest of getting to know this exciting young group of world-class players, here's everything you need to know about Belgium...
-This team has come together very fast. Belgium did not qualify for the 2006 or 2010 World Cups, but they won their qualifying group without a loss thanks to this new generation of players.
-The average age of their World Cup squad is 25.66, making them the second youngest team to qualify behind Ghana (25.44). The youngest player is 19-year-old Divock Origi, who came off the bench to score the winner against Russia and become the first teenager to score in a World Cup since Lionel Messi in 2006. Belgium's oldest player is 36-year-old defender Daniel Van Buyten.
-Belgium's best World Cup finish was fourth place in 1986. They then reached the round of 16 in three of the next four World Cups.
-A whopping 11 members of the 23-man roster play for the Premier League's top seven clubs (12 if you include goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who is owned by Chelsea but has played for La Liga champions Ateltico Madrid for the last three seasons).
-The Queen of Belgium can't tell the players apart.
-Though Marouane Fellaini is Belgium's most recognizable player with his signature afro, the danger men in attack are Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne. At the international level, the former hasn't yet matched his form at the club level with Chelsea — where he scored 17 goals last season and earned himself the FPA Young Player of the Year award — but he sparked the win over Russia, as De Bruyne did against Algeria.
-21-year-old striker Romelu Lukaku has drawn comparisons to Ivory Coast legend Didier Drogba and he's already made his mark on the Premier League with 32 goals in the last two seasons. He was substituted early in the Russia match and didn't seem to take it well, though. It's been a frustrating start to the tournament for him, but he could find his feet at any moment.
-Perhaps Belgium's greatest strength is Courtois, the goalkeeper. He is Lionel Messi's personal nightmare and his combination of freakish coordination and a 6-foot 6 frame make it obvious as to why.
-A bit like Julian Green for the U.S., Belgium also had a talented teenager with nationality options join the team shortly before the tournament in winger Adnan Januzaj. At 19, Januzaj was a revelation for an otherwise dire Manchester United team last season. He's still so new to this team that he needs time to integrate into it, but his skill is undeniable.
-Manager Marc Wilmots is good at celebrating...
At this point, playing Belgium is a bit like playing a 12-year-old chess prodigy. Their youthful inexperience can be exploited while the expectations weigh heavy, but their talent can make you look silly when it all comes together for them. In the group stage, they displayed an impressive ability to grind out results, even scoring a goal to beat Korea 1-0 after going a man down in the 44th minute. The ability to win ugly wasn't something people expected of them, but it makes them a formidable opponent.
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