Not being favored in Belgium game could be good for U.S.

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USA v Germany: Group G – 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil

SALVADOR, Brazil – This World Cup hasn’t been kind to favorites.

Spain, the world’s top-ranked team, went out in the group stage.

Brazil and Costa Rica needed penalty-kick shootouts to win their second-round games, and the Netherlands needed just one penalty kick, in stoppage time, to beat Mexico. And No. 2 Germany needed extra time to get past Algeria.

U.S. Coach Juergen Klinsmann hopes that trend continues Tuesday when his team plays its first elimination-stage game against unbeaten Belgium.

“Anything from now going forward is possible,” Klinsmann said Monday. “Anything. For any team.”

Or for any player. U.S. striker Jozy Altidore, who appeared to be done with the World Cup when he was carried off the field in tears after straining his hamstring 21 minutes into the Americans’ tournament opener, will be available to play Tuesday.

Altidore is unlikely to see much, if any, playing time against Belgium. But that’s not the point. By activating him, Klinsmann, a master motivator, is pushing his message: Anything is possible.

Read more of Kevin Baxter’s story at latimes.com.