• Tuesday Jul 01, 2014

    In World Cup thriller, Belgium eliminates U.S.

     Jermaine Jones (pictured) walks off the field after the United States fell to Belgium in 2014 FIFA World Cup's Round of 16 at Arena Fonte Nova on July 1, 2014, in Salvador, Brazil. (Photo: FIFA via Getty Images)

    SALVADOR, Brazil – Belgium overcame one of the greatest goalkeeping displays in World Cup history to post a 2-1 victory over the United States in a Round of 16 encounter on Tuesday before a crowd of 51,227 at Arena Fonte Nova.

    After a scoreless opening 90 minutes, Kevin De Bruyne struck early in extratime and Romelu Lukaku added a second just before the end of the first period to give the Belgians a 2-0 lead.  Late substitute Julian Green -- making his World Cup debut at 19-years-old -- halved the deficit for the U.S. in the 107th minute.

    The Americans were eliminated from the World Cup after extratime for the second straight World Cup, falling by the same score to Ghana four years go.

    A scintillating meeting was highlighted by the exceptional play of U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard, who made 16 saves – many of them stunning.

    DeBruyne finally gave Belgium a 1-0 lead in the 103rd minute.  Lukaku, who replaced Divock Origi at the start of extratime, fought off a challenge by Matt Besler on the right wing, dribbled inside the U.S. box and passed into the middle.  The ball was poked away by a lunging Omar Gonzalez, but DeBruyne was there to collect and take a few touches to his right before shooting low inside the far post.

    That wasn’t the end of Lukaku’s contribution.  In the 105th minute, DeBruyne placed a well-timed pass into the left side of the box that freed the accelerating 21-year-old to fire past Howard with his left foot from nine-yards out.

    In the 107th minute, Green gave the Americans hope for a comeback with a spectacular goal.  From the middle, Michael Bradley floated a ball towards the penalty spot that Green volleyed off the hands of goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and into the back of the net.

    Seven minutes later, a brilliantly crafted U.S. set piece found Clint Dempsey alone in the middle of the box.  Courtois came rushing off his line to block the ball at the edge of the six-yard box, effectively bringing the USA’s participation at Brazil 2014 to an end.

    The Belgians came out flying as Origi tested Howard in the first minute, but the Everton goalkeeper turned away the first of 38 shots that would come in his direction.

    One attempt that Howard could not reach was off the foot of left-back Jan Vertonghen in the 26th minute.  The Tottenham Hotspur’s shot, though, was saved off the line by DaMarcus Beasley.

    The Americans suffered a blow, when right-back Fabian Johnson was forced out of the match with an injury in the 31st minute.  He was replaced by DeAndre Yedlin.

    Howard continued to be at the top of his game, denying DeBruyne off a quick counter a minute into first-half stoppage time after the Belgians stymied a USA corner kick.

    Early in the second half, Howard was up to the task again, parrying a long-range header by Dries Mertens.

    Origi came closest for Belgium in regulation time with a header that hit off the top of the crossbar in the 56th minute.

    While both teams continued to race up and down the field at an exhausting pace, it was the U.S. that could have won it in the third minute of second-half stoppage.  Chris Wondolowski was alone in front of net only to miss from six-yards.  Even if he had scored, it would not have counted as the assistant referee had already raised his flag for offside.

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