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World Cup preview: A look at potential foes if U.S. advances

World Cup preview: A look at potential foes if U.S. advances
Things turned much brighter for Belgium when Dries Mertens (14) scored late in the game to secure a 2-1 victory over Algeria in a Group H game last week at Estadio Mineirao Belo Horizonte, Brazil. (Jeff Gross / Getty Images)

For Team USA soccer fans, Sunday's first two games at the World Cup are the equivalent of obscure warmup acts before the main event -- the U.S. against Portugal in a Group G game.

But those who anticipate the U.S. advancing beyond the group stage can bide their time by checking out the fourth U.S. opponent of the tournament.

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Both games involve teams from Group H, whose first-place team will face the second-place team from Group G in the round of 16. The Group G champion will play the Group H runner-up.

The Belgians, favored to win Group H, got a scare from Algeria, scrambling late for goals by substitutes in a 2-1 victory. Belgium will play Russia on Sunday.

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The Russians might have chiseled a shutout victory had goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev not let the ball slip through his hands once and into the net, "a childish mistake," as he put it. They rallied for a 1-1 draw with South Korea.

The Koreans were shaky, especially along the back line. Algeria, same as Russia last week, might lack the firepower to capitalize Sunday.

Group H play has shown that it should be considered the most feeble of the eight groups, which raises hopes for the U.S., should it advance, that its prospective opponent in the round of 16 will be anything but intimidating.

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