SAO PAULO — We know all about the Belgians, know how the U.S. always dominates them in the World Cup every time. We also know they whine when they lose, complain about the referee and the state of the field.
We know all this from the only time these sides met in the biggest tournament of them all, on July 13, 1930, when the Americans crushed Belgium, 3-0, in the inaugural World Cup at Montevideo and left them in their Group 4 dust.
How different can it be on Tuesday, really, just 84 years later? The U.S. team clearly has an institutional memory for thrashing these guys. Maybe the media coverage wasn’t quite the same back then, but The New York Times published a cable before the tournament, promoting the 13-nation tournament, under the headline, “World Soccer Play Starts on Sunday.”
“Organized by Uruguay as one of the festivities commemorating the centenary of national independence,” the report read. “(The World Cup) will be inaugurated with two games bringing together the United States and Belgium and Mexico against France. All the foreign delegations already here have been training and are reported in excellent condition.”
The U.S. team in those days was comprised mostly of Scottish and other immigrants, several non-citizens (citizenship was not a requirement), many of them living and playing on teams in New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts hotbeds. The snotty French labeled the Americans “the shotputters,” thinking they were particularly inelegant.
No matter. The U.S. quickly gave all Franco-Walloons a lesson in soccer. Bart McGee from the New York Nationals, by way of Edinburgh, scored the first goal against Belgium in the 40th minute, a rebound from a shot by Billy Gonsalves that struck the crossbar. It was the second goal in the history of the World Cup, since Lucien Laurent of France scored one in the other match minutes earlier.
Bert Patenaude from Fall River, Mass., who would soon produce the first-ever hat trick against Paraguay, scored moments before halftime on a play the Belgians complained was clearly offside. A second half goal by native Jerseyan Tom Florie finished off the Belgians for good.
According to Rony Amedia’s book, “Where It All Began,” the Belgian players grumbled the pitch had been virtually unplayable (Wah, wah… Cue the world’s tiniest violin). The Uruguayan newspaper, Imparcial, wrote, “The large score of the American victory has really surprised the experts.” Take that, predecessors of Alexi Lalas and Taylor Twellman.
The U.S. eventually got knocked out in the semifinals by Argentina, 6-1, but that’s beside the point. The only thing that matters is the Americans whipped Belgium the last time they met in a World Cup. The other four meetings since — all losses for the U.S., two of them within the last three years — must be ignored.
You need more reasons to pick the U.S. on Tuesday? That’s what we’re here for in Sao Paulo. Check out these matchups:
-AREA OF COUNTRY: U.S., 3.79 million square miles; Belgium, 11,787 square miles. BIG EDGE, U.S.
-POPULATION: U.S., 318 million; Belgium, 11 million. BIG EDGE, U.S.
-SIZE OF MILITARY: U.S., three million (including Defense Department); Belgium, 47,000. BIG EDGE, U.S.
-HEAD OF STATE: U.S., Barack Obama; Belgium, King Philippe. EVEN.
-GOVERNING BODIES: U.S. Congress shut down government for 15 days in 2013; Belgian Parliament couldn’t negotiate an official government for 18 months in 2010-2011, still a world record. SLIGHT EDGE: U.S.
-LIFE EXPECTANCY: U.S., 78.7 years; Belgium, 80.38 years. SLIGHT EDGE, BELGIUM, BUT WHO WANTS TO LIVE THAT LONG ANYWAY?
-FAMOUS FOR FOOD: U.S., McDonald’s hamburgers; Belgium, beer, chocolate and waffles. BIG EDGE, BELGIUM (NO ARGUMENT THERE).
-THE PICK: This would seem to be one of the easiest matches ever to predict. Based on the past World Cup meeting between these two sides and the obvious matchup advantages, anything less than a 5-0 victory by the Americans would be a disappointment, bordering on a national embarrassment.
And this whole column? Well, there was no U.S. media access today ….
BY Bernie Augustine
June 27, 12:12PM
New York undoubtedly has World Cup fever, and the remedy appears to be soccer swag. According to Fanatics.com, a leading online retailer of sports apparel, kits are flying off the shelves, and more merch is being shipped to New York addresses th…
BY Bernie Augustine
June 26, 11:25AM
The USMNT unveiled their “Secret Weapon” at a party in Recife Wednesday night — Will Ferrell. The sports nut said he’s not in playing shape as he came out on the stage in a full kit and declared, “If the game gets close, I will bi…
BY Jaime Uribarri
June 25, 4:03PM
Nigeria’s 3-2 World Cup loss to Argentina hurt real bad for the Super Eagles, especially midfielder Michel Babatunde. Babatunde was at the wrong place at the wrong time during Wednesday’s Group F finale and took a laser beam of a shot from teamm…
June 24, 5:48PM
Unfortunate as it was to see Luis Suarez revert to his old ways and bite Giorgio Chiellini during Uruguay’s 1-0 win over Italy at the World Cup, it did inspire plenty of hilarious memes in honor of soccer’s most famous flesh eater. With Tuesday’…
BY Bernie Augustine
June 18, 3:32PM
(Editor’s Note: The video above is the old rap, referenced below. The new rap is at WSJ.com.) We’re not music critics here, we leave that sort of stuff to the professionals. That said, U.S. soccer star Clint Dempsey is an a…