SAO PAULO -- Maybe this is a sign the U.S. national team has matured: While much of America celebrated advancement to the World Cup knockout stage, Michael Bradley thinks the accomplishment has to be viewed with perspective.
"It's something to be proud of, getting out of the group, especially given how difficult it was, but we want more," the 26-year-old midfielder said over the weekend. "There's no feeling of satisfaction at the moment. We want to be here for another few games. We want to continue to push and push and see how far we can take this."
In the knockout phase of consecutive World Cups for the first time, the Americans play Belgium on Tuesday and hope to meet Argentina or Switzerland in a quarterfinal. Bradley said the U.S. is proud to have survived a first-round group that included second-ranked Germany, fourth-ranked Portugal and nemesis Ghana. But he also concludes "it's not anything yet."
That's an opinion shared by Bradley's coach.
"Don't be content," Jurgen Klinsmann said. "Nobody can claim that he reached his 100 percent yet."
That was after the Americans played three grueling games. The U.S. finished ahead of Portugal and Ghana, taking second place in Group G behind Germany.
Getting past Belgium is no easy task. So far it has conceded only one goal -- a penalty at that -- in three games. And in Thibaut Courtois, the team has arguably the most exciting young goalkeeper in the world.
While team captain Vincent Kompany has been excellent in the two games he's played, the central defender has been struggling with a recurring groin strain and is a doubt for Tuesday's game.
"We will have to assess it tomorrow, how he moves," said Belgium coach Marc Wilmots. "I cannot play him if he is 80 percent only."
Another starter, Thomas Vermaelen, has a hamstring injury and has resumed individual exercises. Whether he can play or not will be another last-minute decision.
Add to that the cracked fibula of right back Anthony Vanden Borre and an abductor strain for Laurent Ciman, and Wilmots could be in trouble.
Belgium has treaded extremely carefully to line up three one-goal victories and emerge from its group with a perfect record. Holding back, avoiding errors and pouncing late has become its mantra, and if fans deplore the lack of joy -- too bad.
"If you ask me whether to produce thrills and leave after the group stage, or win all games 1-0 and win the World Cup, I prefer 1-0. That is clear," Wilmots said. "I am there to be a realist. I am not there to please the stadium fans."
And since the U.S. offense has often been anemic, don't bet on much of a goal-fest.
In the last two games, Klinsmann opted for a formation with five midfielders to feed lone striker Clint Dempsey. Jozy Altidore, the top American forward, has been sidelined since straining his left hamstring in the first half against Ghana and has been training on his own.
The U.S. hasn't played Belgium in the World Cup since winning 3-0 in its opening match of the very first tournament in 1930.
Michael Bradley says the U.S. is proud but not satisfied with its run into the knockout round of the World Cup.
Round of 16: U.S. vs. Belgium,
12:30 p.m. ESPN
Wild finish lifts the Netherlands and leaves Mexico fuming. PAGE 3
A look at
the culture, history and soccer
prowess of Belgium, America's next opponent. PAGE 3