Belgium sinks U.S. hopes
By Neil Maidment
SALVADOR, Brazil — Belgium needed extra time in Tuesday’s World Cup match to crack United States goalkeeper Tim Howard in a 2-1 extra-time victory.
Howard finished with 16 saves for the U.S., a World Cup match record.
Belgium dominated the first 90 minutes of play, but the team’s efforts were thwarted by Howard’s inspired play. The Belgians finally broke through in the 93rd minute when midfielder Kevin De Bruyne buried an angled shot from seven meters.
The lead went to 2-0 when substitute striker Rome Lukaku powered home a shot in the 105th minute after a De Bruyne pass. Julian Green scored the United States’ lone goal in the 107th minute.
“We had about 15 chances, we were controlling the game; I think it is largely deserved even though at the end we conceded one,” Belgium coach Marc Wilmots told reporters. “My players reached their limits to qualify. I said fresh legs would be important today and that is how it was. Now the whole of Belgium can celebrate.”
Belgium will face Argentina in a quarterfinal match Saturday.
“It was real drama, a thriller. We had enough possibilities to equalize the game or even put it away earlier,” said U.S. coach Juergen Klinsmann, whose team defeated Ghana and Portugal to qualify for the last 16. “It was a game that just went to the extreme.”
In a sign of things to come, Belgium striker Divock Origi was in on goal inside 40 seconds, only to see his low drive parried away by Howard. More chances stacked up as the U.S. was forced to set up camp outside its own box and look for quick breaks.
De Bruyne should have done better after 23 minutes, having found space in the box, and Clint Dempsey’s tame volley was the Americans’ only chance of the first half.
Belgium cranked up a gear after the break. The scrambling U.S. defense relied on Howard to save attempts by Dries Mertens and Jan Vertonghen before Origi’s header hit the crossbar.
A Kevin Mirallas run and shot, two more stinging Origi drives and a Vincent Kompany effort were all dealt with by Howard, who faced 38 attempts on his goal during the game.
With extra time moments away, U.S. substitute Chris Wondolowski missed a chance from five meters that could have given the Americans victory.
In extra time, Belgium’s persistence paid off when De Bruyne was given time and space after Lukaku raced down the right wing to cross. Lukaku subsequent goal minutes later proved to be the game winner.
All of Belgium’s goals so far in Brazil have been scored after the 70th minute.
“It was heart-breaking,” Howard said. “We left it all out there but we lost to a really good team. It hurts but hats off to Belgium; they were fantastic.
“Sometimes when you give your best it doesn’t come off.”
The win sealed Belgium’s first World Cup quarter-final appearance since 1986.