US vs. Belgium preview: There’s no room for error now

— OK, so the U.S. lost to Germany, but still squeezed through to the next round. No shame in that. But nothing to be too proud of either.

But the game today? This is do or die. This is one and done. This is all or nothing.

This is whatever cliche you can think of to rabble rouse your team spirit.

If the U.S.-Germany match was a battle of David and Goliath, this afternoon’s encounter is David and the Dark Horse.

And Belgium ain’t no one trick pony.

The game’s at 4 p.m. ET — enough time for you to skim through this cheat sheet and become an insta-pundit.

Why you should care

It’s about time soccer caught on in the U.S.

And in order for that to happen, Americans need a team they can really rally behind.

If the boys can beat Belgium, it’s off to the quarter finals of the World Cup. The last time the men’s team did that was in 2002. (They lost to Germany.)

The expectations are enormous. When was the last time you saw the country unite behind one cause, gather in front of massive TV screens, and collectively bellow, “I believe that we will win”?

At home, 25 million people watched the USA nearly slay Portugal last week. Twenty five million! That’s more than what the NBA finals or the baseball World Series averaged.

In Brazil, Americans are second only to the host nation in the number of tickets bought.

Online, Twitter and Facebook are blowing up.

Soccer, you see, is starting to stir the soul of America.

“The country is paying attention in a way that it’s never done before, and we have a chance to make some history,” said Sunil Gulati, the U.S. Soccer Federation president.

It’d be a shame if the plucky Yanks lost to Belgium, killing the momentum.

How it has played out before

When the U.S. last played Belgium at the World Cup, it beat them 3-0. But that was 84 years ago — in 1930! More recently, the teams played two “friendlies” (matches that aren’t part of a tournament). The U.S. lost both.

Why you should worry

You don’t hear Belgium mentioned in the same breath as soccer powerhouses like Brazil, Argentina or Germany.

That’s because it isn’t.

It plays a boring brand of soccer. Cautious. Tentative. Patient.

”I am here to be a realist,” their coach, Marc Wilmots, says. “I am not here to please the fans in the stands.”

But Belgium wins games.

It qualified for the World Cup, winning eight out of 10 games. (It drew the other two.) At the tournament, it’s won all three of its games, conceding only one goal.

Another reason: The Red Devils are young and hungry. Eleven of their players are in the prestigious English Premier League. Four of the Americans play there. Also, Belgium has way too many strong goal-scorers.

Why you shouldn’t worry

Un: The Belgians are banged up.

Captain Vincent Kompany can’t seem to shake a nagging groin injury. So he’s iffy for the game.

Kompany is one of Belgium’s key defenders. A second starting defender has a hamstring strain.

Without those two, the goal scoring potential increases for the U.S.

And they’re not the only ones battling injury. There’s one guy with a broken leg, another with a groin strain, another with muscle tightness.

Deux: Jozy Altidore will be back for the U.S. Since he was sidelined with a hamstring injury in the U.S opener against Ghana, Clint Dempsey has had to go it alone as the main goal scorer. Altidore returns to the potent partnership.

Trois: There’s something to be said for experience. And the U.S. has four players who are World Cup veterans (Howard, Dempsey, DaMarcus Beasley and Michael Bradley.) They know how to deal with the pressures of competing on soccer’s biggest stage. The Belgians? The last time they were at a World Cup was 14 years ago.

“We have absolutely no fear at all,” U.S. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. “We believe we have built a foundation in our team that we are able to beat them, and we’re looking forward to it.”

What you should ignore

The fact that the referee is Algerian. Ever since FIFA picked Djamei Haimoudi for the match, the comments have poured in: “We’re toast.” Why? Because the USA knocked Algeria out of the 2010 World Cup with a 1-0 victory.

Klinsmann’s got a second reason: He seems to think that the fact that the ref speaks French gives the Belgians an edge.

“Is it a good feeling? No,” he said. “He’s able to speak French with their players on the field, not with us. And it’s the country that we beat in the last second of the last World Cup.”

Will Haimoudi hold a grudge? Hogwash.

He’s refereed the Netherlands-Australia game and the England-Costa Rica game without complaints from fans or critics about wrong calls.

“It is looking for excuses ahead of the match,” Belgian coach Wilmots said.

What the U.S. should do

Attack, attack, attack! In the last three games, the boys attacked just 72 times, says FIFA. You know where that places the USA among the 32 teams at the World Cup? Dead last!

Today, the natural tendency of the team might be to hunker down, ward off the inevitable Belgian onslaught, and make a run for the goal when chances open up.


This isn’t the group round. You lose here, you’re out.

All of Belgium’s goals have come in the last 20 minutes of games, making it hard for the opposing team to equalize.

So the U.S. needs to go at it guns blazing. Yes, the Red Devils have won their World Cup games so far, but they never quite dominated. Overwhelm them.

What you should say

Here are some fun facts to impress your buddies at your soccer watching party:

Fun fact #1: Before he became Belgium’s coach, Marc Wilmots served in the country’s senate for two years.

Fun fact #2: Belgium’s most notable contribution to cinema is Jean-Claude Van Damme.

Fun fact #3: Waffle House is calling for a ban on Belgian waffles. That’s not even a Belgian invention. Oof!

Fun fact #4: Brussels sprouts actually do get their name from the Belgian capital.

Fun fact #5: Clint Dempsey has another goal: to make it as rapper Deuce. His 13-track album, “The Redux,” comes out after the World Cup.

Who will win

The folks at FiveThirtyEight give the U.S. a 42 percent chance of winning.

The Belgian coach pegs his team’s chances at 50-50.

The U.S. quotes Abraham Lincoln: “The best way to predict your future is to create it.”

Climate change can change one’s well-being

— For most of the nearly 30 years since Dr. Nicole Brodie’s asthma diagnosis, the athlete and Army veteran has been able to maintain an uninterrupted life, continuing to teach elementary school, coach a children’s team, and remain active. She was partly able to do this by moving her family from New York State to Atlanta for the warmer climate.

“When I arrived in Atlanta, my asthma was controlled with just [an] albuterol [inhaler] as needed,” she said at a panel event last week. “But in the last 10 to 15 years, I have had to be on oral steroids…I’ve increased to daily Allegra [allergy pill] and nasal sprays. And I keep a Benadryl on me at all times. I have to take four-to-five pills a day to manage my symptoms.”

And three weeks ago, she found herself in the hospital for an emergency intervention. The heat index had risen too quickly, causing her lungs to fall to 75 percent capacity.

The issue of climate change is often discussed in terms of failing infrastructure, energy squabbles, weather disasters, and ecological concerns. But a mounting body of research is showing that individual and communal wellness is also at stake; and communities of color tend to be some of the hardest hit.

“The theories are over. We needed an insurance policy, and now it’s time to cash in,” Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association said at a press conference to release the report. “For years we’ve debated if [climate change] is happening, but we are now seeing it in patients.”

Two reports released last week examined how the effects of climate change can deeply affect physical and psychological health, on both individual and communal levels. (The studies’ “effects of climate change” referred to trends in extreme weather events, food and water shortages, poor air quality, etc.).

The first report is a survey of 284 physicians of color across 33 states on their experience treating people suffering as a direct or indirect result of climate change. The survey was sponsored by the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communications (4C Program), and the National Medical Association (the largest and oldest professional organization of African American physicians).

In the survey, 61 percent of physicians reported that climate change is affecting the health of their patients a great deal or a moderate amount, and 88 percent have experienced climate change effects outside of their role as physicians.

The most common climate-change related illnesses doctors were seeing in their patients, with 88 respondents seeing each of these trends, were injuries because of severe weather (such as back damage from shoveling after major snowfall), and illness aggravated by air pollution (such as COPD, asthma, and pneumonia). More than half the doctors also reported increases in treating waterborne and vector-borne illnesses (transmitted by insects or microorganisms, often stirred up by heavy rains and flooding).

In the case of asthma, African Americans already disproportionately suffer from this condition. According to the Office of Minority Health, In 2011 African Americans were 20 percent more likely than Whites to have asthma and three times as likely to die from it. Add the fact that communities of color and low-income communities tend to be situated in polluted areas, and the stage is set for disaster.

“When I was working in emergency medicine, I saw lots of uninsured people, and many had done every home trick they could to stave off [an asthma] attack,” said Dr. Benjamin. “And then they still had to wait because they had no insurance.”

These physical stressors are also taking a psychological toll, according to another report. “Beyond Storms & Droughts: The Psychological Impacts of Climate Change” explores the mental, physical, and community health impacts of the effects of climate change. This compilation of existing research and expert analysis from climate change solutions nonprofit, ecoAmerica, and the American Psychological Association, finds that Americans will increasingly suffer mental health impacts at the hands of climate change.

“The impacts of climate change on human psychology and well-being arise through two main pathways,” the report reads. “Some impacts will arise from the direct physical impacts of climate change, while others will arise as a result of climate change’s more indirect impacts on human systems and infrastructure.”

The report offers several studies involving Hurricane Katrina victims as an example of a direct and severe hit to mental wellness resulting from climate change. For years after the storm, many survivors experienced post-traumatic stress disorder, major depressive disorder, “complicated grief,” and increased domestic abuse.

Indirect, or gradual impacts are more difficult to quantify due to a dearth of research. In one example, the study details a loss of personal or occupational identity after losing possessions in weather events, wildfires, and floods, or being unable to continue lifelong, sometimes generational occupations due to environmental changes (such as oceanic changes that destroy shrimping families’ livelihoods). In another example, the study discusses the relationship between rising temperatures and community aggression that has been well documented, particularly in Black communities.

Both reports find that women (particularly mothers), children, the elderly, and low-income families are the most vulnerable to climate change effects. They also both outline suggestions for people and communities to guard themselves against the adverse effects.

Dr. Christie Manning, co-author of the second report and visiting assistant professor of Environmental Studies at Macalester College, asserts that strong neighborhood networks and an emergency plan set in advance are the greatest defenses, for example.

“At the national level we see a lot of stalling and stalemate, but at the local and city level they realize this is something people need to be prepared for,” she explains. “Cities are seeing the infrastructure costs. Municipalities are really engaged in this idea of being prepared, and resilient.”

The good news is that most communities are bracing for impact by beefing up support services. In the beginning of May, The White House released the Third Annual Climate Assessment, and extensively reviewed report, created by a team of more than 300 experts, and guided by a 60-member Federal Advisory Committee. Almost all science professionals have come to the same conclusion as the report: that climate change is affecting this generation now, and that most Americans are feeling the changes.

“Not a lot of people know a climate scientist, so when you say 98 percent of climate scientists say this is happening…it might not mean much to you,” said Dr. Mona Sarfaty, director of the 4C Program at George Mason. “But everybody knows a doctor.”