Reporter (and USA fan) Connor Adams Sheets is taking one for the team and hanging out with a bunch of rowdy Belgians at a Manhattan bar during Tuesday's World Cup match between the U.S. and the small European country. This page will be continuously updated beginning shortly before the game starts at 4 p.m. EDT.
6:40 p.m.: The Belgians win 2-1. Bedlam breaks out at the bar. Hearts are broken. Team USA can't make it out of the knockout round of 16 yet again. America fan Ryan Schultz is upset, but he's hopeful.
"This sucks. The keeper did so well and that's how it ended," he said. "Four more years, we'll kill it."
6:30 p.m.: The Americans scored a goal, life surges back into the crowd. Free Bacardi drinks for all. Still, it's a long shot for Team USA to stay alive.
6:20 p.m.: The Americans gave up a second goal to Belgium. The match seems to be over. But Ray Albright, who works in finance in Midtown Manhattan, isn't dismayed.
"This is the third time they've ever been to the final 16 and soccer is getting bigger and bigger in America," he said. "Rome wasn't built in a decade." (Well, a day, the saying actually goes. But with the World Cup only every four years, you've got to adjust.)
6:05 p.m.: The Belgians scored and the air went out of the American side of the room. Result is almost a foregone conclusion at this point.
But Mike Hewes, who works in finance at HSBC, still has faith in Team USA.
"There's a lot of time on the clock," he said. "And we're Americans. We never quit."
5:40: The game is still tied. And Danielle Knight of Queens said she is pulling for Belgium.
"Why am I supporting Belgium? My boyfriend is Belgian. I don't want him alone in this bar as a Belgian so I'm here supporting my man. I'll be Belgian even if I have to take all the USA fans on," she said.
5:30: The game remains a draw, but Belgium fan Jeremy Hansen, who was born in the European nation and spent the first 13 years of his life there, says the match is still inspiring unity among Belgians.
"In Belgium there's the Flemish and the Walloons, and the country is divided into these two camps. This match is unifying the country in a way that hasn't been seen in decades," he said.
"For Belgium this is the best team they've put out since the Eighties so everyone's paying a lot of attention. Even though the Flemish and the Walloons are usually divided, they're hugging now in Brazil, which has never really happened."
5:15: Halftime has come and it's still tied at nil. The Americans in the bar are understandably bullish at the result so far.
Damien Dittberner, a filmmaker based in the island of Mauritius, was born in Belgium but lived in New York for years so his allegiances reluctantly lie with the Americans.
"I was born in Belgium, not supporting the Belgian team because I am more American than I am Belgian," he said. "I do like the Belgians but I would feel pretty hypocritical if I didn't support the American team. I was born in Belgium but I only lived there 1.5 years so I don't feel any particular ties to there."
4:45: Team USA is continuing not to lose, defying all expectations. The air in this Manhattan bar keeps getting thicker, as American fans realize this really could be the entrance to another round, not just a guaranteed loss, as pundits wanted to make it out to be over the weekend.
Paul Kim, a 22-year-old Manhattan consultant, said he's just here to support his country.
"We're underdogs, you know? We do better as underdogs, that's all I know," he said. "My family is Korean, but I'm American-born so I'm definitely all USA. The way I see see is the more the U.S. advances the more we can take off work and have a good time."
4:15: Belgium fan Eric Sorenson, who is of Finnish and Irish descent, said, "Belgium has to win or I'm going to go into a pit of despair. We cannot lose to the Americans." This came shortly before a close miss by Team USA, which released cries of anguish from the majority of the bar, which is backing the home team despite the presence of a heavy Belgian contingent.
The attendees are mostly decked out in Midtown corporate tie-and-shirt uniforms, but the intensity is high as the U.S. keep the score tied despite their underdog status.
Still, the tension is thick as the match remains 0-0.
3:40 p.m.: The crowd is getting riled up as kickoff approaches, with dozens of people filing into the bar, most of whom are bedecked in American regalia.
A Midtown office worker who gave his name as Rohit took time off his workday to watch the game here, hoping to make some money off the $10,000 he said he has riding on the U.S. winning.
The odds of the U.S. winning in regulation are 3:1, he says, while the odds of them winning at all are 1.7:1. So he's got everything riding on the Americans.
"If they win I get money either way. So it all depends on when if they win," the U.S. fan said. "The greatest part is this is the one time the whole country is for the same thing. It doesn't matter who you are, you're for America, so that's cool. I'm looking forward more to hanging out here and drinking than I am about the betting."
12:30 p.m.: The U.S. squad has a chance to redeem its recent history of being knocked out of the World Cup in the aptly named knockout round on Tuesday, when it faces off against Belgium in Brazil.
Advancing would show the world that the Americans are at last a strong force in international soccer, a status they've already achieved at least in part by getting further than the mighty Spanish and Italian teams this year.
But between now and the quarterfinals stands the Belgian squad, heavily favored to win by commentators, and by Belgians and American traitors alike.
I'll be headed to The Australian, an Aussie bar (chosen because it's neutral territory, and the Australians exited the cup in the first round anyway) in midtown Manhattan at about 3:30 p.m. Tuesday to watch the match with a crew of diehard Belgium fans. It's not an assignment that calls for journalistic impartiality: It will result in either over-the-top gloating or wails of sorrow.
Belgians are not known for overt displays of emotion. In fact, their country is stereotyped by other Europeans as somewhat bland. But not on World Cup match day. As Jeremy Hansen -- a Belgian-born Queens resident with no loyalty to his adopted land's national team when they're facing his beloved Belgium -- told me, "When is the last time you've seen a Brusseler cry out of sadness or joy?"