It's the day we've been all counting down to - our boys in the Red, White, and Blue will take on the Red Devils of Belgium in a Round of 16 elimination game this afternoon at 1 p.m. PST on ESPN. But before we get to that, the Messi-iah will lead La Albiceleste against the Swiss this morning at 9 a.m. PST. Carrying the lofty expectations of a nation looking to win its third World Cup, Lionel Messi will shoulder the expectations of Argentina like none other in his homeland, except for perhaps Maradona and Atlas himself. Having won their group easily, picking up the maximum nine points, Argentina will need to find its way past a tricky Swiss team that has some serious, unheralded talent in its ranks. Of course, the Argentinians boast the best attack force of any team in the world, with Messi leading a line that includes Manchester City's Sergio Agüero, Napoli's Gonzalo Higuain, Real Madrid's Angel di Maria, and PSG's Ezequiel Lavezzi.
The Swiss will try to pull off a massive upset, led by in-form Bayern Munich winger Xherdan Shaqiri and up-and-coming star left-back Ricardo Rodriguez. They finished as expected in their group, coming in second to France in Group E, but they'll need to find their absolute best form if they want to have any chance against an Argentina side that has the ability to score quickly in bunches. As we've seen with Chile, Mexico, and Algeria, the underdogs in the tournament don't fall apart all that easily when faced up against elite, top-tier squads, so we'll see if the Swiss can finally break one through for the underdogs and send Messi and Company home earlier than planned. Kick off for their game is set for 9 a.m. PST on ESPN.
Once Argentina and Switzerland are done battling it out, it'll be time for our team, the United States, to take on a very talented Belgium squad. Led by Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, and Vincent Kompany, the Belgians boast a roster full of top-shelf players plying their trade for top-tier clubs. But, as we've seen, the games aren't played on paper and the Americans have to feel confident about their chances to win against a Belgium team that is not as deep or talented as Germany or Portugal, especially if Belgian captain and defensive stalwart Kompany is unable to play. Losing Kompany will be a big blow to a team already hurting from injuries, while the Americans will be boosted by the reported return of Jozy Altidore to the team tomorrow. Whether the Americans can take advantage of some Belgian defensive frailties (their weakest link) remains to be seen, but the USMNT will need Michael Bradley to get himself right and play an outstanding game if they want to keep control of the game against a Belgian midfield that f features Axel Witsel, Marouane Fellaini, and Kevin De Bruyne. Our boys have shown they can hang with Germany and Portugal, so there should be no fear coming into this game. Kick-off for our massive game, with a quarterfinal date against - in all likelihood - Argentina on the brink, is set for 1 p.m. PST on ESPN.
Oh yeah, it's time. Let's do this America. Kick off for our boys in Red, White, and Blue is set for 1 p.m. PST on ESPN. This is your World Cup open thread as the USMNT plays a massive game, with a spot in the quarterfinals on the line. Fire away with your thoughts, analysis, and opinions as you tune in and as we cheer on the Red, White and Blue.