Belgium overcame a world-class goalkeeping performance and a furious American comeback in extra time to book a spot in the 2014 World Cup quarter-finals, edging the U.S. 2-1 on Tuesday.
The Belgians applied nearly constant pressure on the U.S. defence before breaking through in the 93rd minute, when Kevin De Bruyne made a great move in close and finally put a shot past Tim Howard.
Romelu Lukaku added a second Belgian marker in the 105th minute, which seemed to seal the win for Belgium. But the Americans sparked back to life in the 107th minute, when Julian Green brought the U.S. back within one with a great volley.
That goal provided a grandstand finish to the match, but the Americans couldn’t find another marker, coming closest when Clint Dempsey was stopped in close by Thibaut Courtois.
The match finally turned when De Bruyne scored after making a brilliant move to slide past two American defenders, put a shot past Howard and into the far corner for Belgium’s first goal. It wasn’t the match winner, but it put Belgium on the front foot and broke U.S. spirits, for a little while.
Man of the match
Tim Howard. One of the great goalkeeping performances in World Cup history, bar none.
Howard’s 16 saves are the most by any keeper at the World Cup since FIFA started tracking the stat in 1966.
It was a good day for…
Bonus soccer. A relatively compelling 0-0 match turned into an insane, heart-in-your-mouth classic in extra time. We've had five extra time matches in the Round of 16, and seven (yes, seven) goals total in the extra sessions.
It was a bad day for…
Belgian waffles. Again, not from Belgium. But countless Americans boycotted the delicious treat in the lead-up to the match.
What this means
That was the best performance by the Belgians at the World Cup for 110 minutes. Those last 10 minutes though…those are the ones Argentina will probably focus on when the sides clash in the quarter-finals on Saturday (CBC TV, cbc.ca/fifaworldcup, Noon ET). Argentina will likely be the slight favourite, but both sides have the talent to move on.
The Americans were only in the tournament for four games, but what a set of matches they gave us. Three of the four games the U.S. played were not decided until the 80th minute or later, and the team’s belief captivated fans across the country. We should get used to this — the Americans belong at the World Cup.