Injury Threatens Belgium’s Campaign

belgium_football_team.jpgJozy Altidore jogged around the Sao Paulo FC training ground while his United States teammates participated in their first full-squad practice since returning from Thursday’s Group G finale in Recife.

Jurgen Klinsmann remains optimistic that Altidore, who injured his left hamstring 12 days ago in the U.S.’s tournament opener, will return for tomorrow’s round-of-16 showdown against Belgium.

Belgium coach Marc Wilmots is sweating injuries to two of his four starting defenders – captain Vince Kompany and Thomas Vermaelen – and holds out hope that a weekend of rest will allow the two to recover in time to face the U.S. at Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador.

A groin problem forced Kompany, the Manchester City star center back to sit out the Belgians’ final Group H game last Thursday.

Vermaelen also missed the 1-0 victory over South Korea due to a hamstring strain that he sustained in the 31st minute of Belgium’s second group game, a 1-0 victory over Russia.

The Belgians’ backline depth also took a hit Saturday when Wilmots announced that the injury to backup right back Anthony Vanden Borre was worse than expected.

What was originally called a sprained ankle ended up being a tournament-ending fibula fracture for Vanden Borre, who played against South Korea while starting right back Toby Alderweireld was rested.

Reserve defender Laurent Ciman (adductor strain) and midfielder Mousa Dembele (muscle tightness) also sat out training Saturday at Belgium’s base camp in Mogi das Cruzes, about an hour’s drive east of the U.S.’s base camp.

“We still have four days,” Wimots told reporters Saturday. “I hope most of them will be fit then.”

Even if Kompany and Vermaelen play Tuesday, they likely won’t be 100 percent fit. That could help an American side that will have its own defensive challenges facing Belgium’s young and talented attack. — AP

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