Belgium 2 USA 1 (aet)

Final Score: Belgium 2 USA 1 (aet)

AN outstanding performance from the United States, inspired by Tim Howard, could not prevent American hearts being broken as Belgium finally produced a performance to match their pre-World Cup billing.

Howard – who made 15 saves – defied Belgium until extra time, when the introduction of Romelu Lukaku proved decisive with the striker creating the opening for Kevin de Bruyne’s winner before scoring the second himself in a thrilling 2-1 victory.

Teenager Julian Green gave the USA hope and they had chances, but Belgium just held on.

Belgium, who had failed to inspire in their group games, have the reward of a quarter-final against Argentina in Brasilia.

Klinsmann and his players go out with their heads held high, and could even have won it.

The statistics will tell a tale of Belgian dominance, but that will miss the story of American heroics.

The USA fielded an attacking formation rather than keeping things tight, and that nearly paid off when Michael Bradley linked up with Clint Dempsey but he could not find the power to test Thibaut Courtois.

The second half began with Belgium threatening and the USA relying on fortune and Howard.

Dries Mertens’ looping header was flicked over the bar by Howard, Jan Vertonghen’s cross evaded both De Bruyne and Origi, then Origi sent in a good header which landed on top of the crossbar.

With normal time running out, Kompany went close to bundling it over the line, but Howard once again was equal.

Belgium boss Marc Wilmots gave Lukaku a chance to make up for his disappointing tournament, on for Origi, and within two minutes of extra time starting he had made the goal.

Lukaku’s strength opened up the USA and De Bruyne fastened on to the ball to fire in low at the far post.

With the USA looking done in, De Bruyne this time played in Lukaku to fire home first-time at Howard’s near-post.

The game seemed over only for Green to pop up with a goal with just about his first touch, the 19-yearold Bayern Munich player beating Courtois with a volleyed finish.

At the climax, it was Courtois’ turn to be the hero when he denied Dempsey at point-blank range after a brilliantly inventive free-kick by the Americans in what was, for many, the game of the tournament.

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