MOGI DAS CRUZES, Brazil – This is as close to 'rent-a-crowd' that the World Cup will come. And it won't cost Belgium anything.
Expected to be outnumbered by tens of thousands of Argentina fans at Saturday's quarterfinal at the 70,000-capacity Estadio Nacional in Brasilia, Belgium coach Marc Wilmots gently stoked a regional rivalry to suit his ends.
Wilmots said "the Brazilians expect only one thing and that is that we beat the Argentinians," referring to a long and sometimes bitter rivalry between the neighboring football giants.
Belgian fans traveled in their thousands to group games, adding patches of bright red in the grandstands. But since planning for the knockout stages is fraught with uncertainty, far fewer were at the second round game against the United States in Salvador, and fewer still are expected on Saturday.