Team U.S.A. bandwagoner, we've traveled far and wide together. From the giraffe-free shores of Ghana to the sleazy nightclubs of Portugal and into the hellnest of Germany, where the U.S. Men's National Team skated by on a technicality for an advancement we didn't exactly earn. And now we're meeting with Belgium and I know what you're thinking: Who? What?
At the outset, today's match between Belgium and the U.S. might seem like a tough test (Belgium is very good and we are basic/okay/though we have heart/it means nothing/this isn't America), there are a number of reasons why the US might still stand a chance for advancement and not total humiliation. And most of them include you and your deeply important sense of delusion. Are you with me?
1. Don't get your hopes up.
Hopes are everything in this life—even more than dreams. If you're convinced that all we need today is a little sprinkling of hope dust and Jozy Altidore's triumphant return to the pitch, then you're wrong. We'll need a lot more. Don't forget that the US basically made it into the knockout stage of the World Cup by accident, thanks mostly to L.A. Looks spokesperson Cristiano Ronaldo.
Belgium is a really good squad—some might say they are "stacked"—and they won all three matches in their group, maxing out with 9 total points. Granted, those matches were against Russia, South Korea, and Algeria while we faced a Group of Butchering to the Death via Meat Cleaver, but we still look poor comparatively.
2. If we win, that's worse.
If we were to win against Belgium today, to officially knock the Red Devils (de Rode Duivels/les Diables Rouges/die Roten Teufel) out of this thing, we'd then have to take on Argentina. What's that you say? Argentina hasn't won yet today? They're going to fucking win. Check back with me in three hours.
(If you're still skeptical that Argentina could win you could always trust the opinion of a dead clam. He's been (sort of) right before. Oh, but he doesn't cover every match, only matches that the U.S. plays in? Then I guess you have to listen to me after all. Twist.)
If the U.S. beats Belgium, the odds of the team then going on to take out Argentina are so slim that it's depressing. But Americans are suckers for underdogs, and punishment. We desperately want to win today's (or any) game, no matter how miserable it will be when the taste of the trophy is in our sights and then ripped away. It's in our blood. Because we are fools.
3. We've already beat these Belgian dirtbags once (in 1930).
On July 13, 1930, the U.S. Men's National Team beat the Belgium National Team in the group stage of the first ever World Cup in Uruguay, and though that was over 80 years ago, the rivalry still lives in American's hearts. According to an article on U.S. Soccer, which might be a site entirely used for propaganda I don't know, the USMNT had only played 13 games abroad at that point, and when we came in and bodied the Belgians, there was a chance we could be an international soccer power after all.
Needless to say, we were wrong, and were eventually defeated 6-1 by Argentina in the semifinals (Argentina again!), but we still can hold on to that defeat. A Rivalry to Cover 90 Years: You can use that slogan, it is free to you. 90 Years of Shitting On Belgium: That one is also free. How about: Belgium: Still Sucking Since 1930. It's a work in progress.
4. There are new extra time rules: NO MORE BULLSHIT DRAWS.
If you are a real bandwagoner I find it very unlikely that you've been watching any of the knockout stage of the World Cup unless you know with utmost certainty that you can wear stars and stripes while you're doing it. This means you probably don't understand how this next part works. I know I told you we won't win (we won't) and that the clam is dead (it is) but it's important you sound savvy to your friends:
If the score is tied at the end of the match, the teams are given a short break. Then, 30 minutes of extra time, played in two 15 minute segments, is tacked on. If no one scores at the end of those 30 minutes (the soccer men have now been running around for two hours), there are penalty shootouts. Awwwwww, yeah. If there's anything we love, it's a good old-fashioned shootout.
Each team chooses five players, who each take one shot on goal with only the goalie to defend. Whoever emerges with more goals after those five is declared the winner. If both score an equal number of penalty kicks, they keep going until one team makes the kick and the other does not. It's your last chance to stay alive, one that will likely end in loss. BUT AT LEAST THERE ARE NO MORE BULLSHIT DRAWS.
5. The Olympics are coming up so enjoy today while you still can.
The next major international competition that non sports fans and bandwagoners will become invested in (that means you and your a capella group) enough for drinks specials is the Olympics, and since we've come this far in the World Cup, the Olympics are going to feel like a huge downgrade to you. If you take anything away from today's game, I hope that it is confirmation that the Olympics are for rubes.
Bonus: Sick Burns You Can Use Against Belgium
"Nice shot, Vincent Kompany. What Kompany do you work for? BAD SOCCER PLAYING, INC.? I bet that you got it incorporated in Delaware and though that is very smart business mien, you named your company BAD SOCCER PLAYING, INC., which was pretty fucking stupid so way to go. Where'd you get your MBA? At I'm Bad At Soccer University? Did you graduate with honors? Didn't think so. BURN. You'll never pay off your student loans."
"Not playing plus vites today, Belgium. Must be all those frites with mayonnaise. But you also speak German so auf wiedersehen."
"Why does your country have, like, four different types of government? That seems very unwieldy and impractical."
"YOU'RE ALL HANDSOME AND THAT IS FUNDAMENTALLY STUPID."
"Midfielder Axel Witsel [pictured below] looks like he should be on a Disney channel show and one that doesn't lead to fame and fortune."
"Marc Wilmots spelled backward is Stomliw Cram and I've never seen The Hobbit movies but I bet that's the name of one of the characters."
"Belgium? More like Belgi-'UM, NO THANKS.'"
"Your only good export is made by monks."
Good luck out there today, boys. Make the US proud that football season is only two months away.
[Images via AP]