Undefeated Thibaut Courtois an imposing threat to US hopes

Written by Reuters | Salvador, Brazil | Updated: Jun 30 2014, 02:41am hrs
It will not only be Thibaut Courtois' considerable frame that the United States must get past if they are beat Belgium at the World Cup but also an impressive record for his country.

The 1.98 metre goalkeeper has not been on the losing side for Belgium in his 20 international appearances to date, a record he told reporters he had no intention of giving up when the two countries meet in the last 16 in Salvador on Tuesday.

"Of course it's great that I've never lost with the Red Devils and long may it last," said the 22-year-old, who debuted for Belgium while still a teenager against France in late 2011 and kept a clean sheet in a goalless draw.

Another clean sheet against South Korea in his last game was the 101st of a career that has seen him win league honours in Spain and play in the Champions League final in the weeks leading up to the World Cup.

Courtois is also the only goalkeeper at the tournament in Brazil who has not conceded a goal in open play. He has only been beaten from the penalty spot by Algeria's Sofiane Feghouli in Belgium's opening Group H game in Belo Horizonte on June 17.

"That's great too, but I realise it could change quickly. We've been able to set down some good (defensive) organisation and given very few chances away. But if that cracks, then it's up to me to stop the ball," he added.

"I find if I have more work I am able to concentrate better because then you are in the flow of the match. But I'm used to long periods without any action at Atletico (Madrid, his club side). To stay fully concentrated for 90 minutes is one of my qualities."

His lanky frame, quick reflexes and an imposing command of his area made him one of the stars of the club season in Europe and a player from whom much is expected as he returns to parent club Chelsea next season.

But he did not want to talk about the impending move to England, telling reporters: "I'm sitting here at the World Cup with the Belgian side and concentrating fully on the task with the national team; I'm not prepared to talk about the future, not even thinking about it. We'll see after the World Cup."

But Courtois did offer an analysis of the upcoming match against an American side he predicted would pose a tough physical challenge.

"We must make the difference with our own play. Maybe we haven't yet reached the standards here that we know can but we still got nine out of nine," he added in a reference to the maximum points from the opening round for the Belgians, who are competing at the World Cup for the first time since 2002.

"If we don't play superb football against the U.S. but still win, that'll be good enough for me. I'd much rather we not play the perfect World Cup match than go home."