By Jorge Belon, Editor in Chief
SALVADOR– Despite Tim Howard historical performance of making 16 saves and Julian Green spectacular late volley goal against the Red Devils. But Lukaku goal would prove to be a bridge too far for the Americans late comeback attempt on Tuesday night 2-1 defeat.
“It’s heartbreaking; I don’t think we could have given any more. We left it all out there,” United States goalkeeper Tim Howard told FIFA.com. “We got beaten by a really good team. They took their chances well. Its heartache, it hurts. But hats off to Belgium, they were fantastic.”
Belgium took 39 total shots and got 18 of those shots on target, Howard would stop 16 of them and in the process made history by becoming the first keeper to ever make 16 saves in a World Cup since 1966.
“It’s hard for us to end up on the losing side after 120 minutes of giving absolutely everything,” U.S. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann told FIFA.com. “But this game had everything, it was a thriller. I have to say that what Tim Howard did tonight was phenomenal, outstanding and amazing. He kept us in the game. He had an absolutely amazing match and you have to give him all the plaudits.”
In regulation time the Everton FC goalkeeper made 12 saves with his legs and hands, nearly everything they threw at him he stopped. The heavy favorites Belgium were starting to appear to run out of ideas on how to score a goal on Howard.
At the 90th minute the United States nearly stole the show with a possible game winner from Chris Wondolowski, but the San Jose Earthquake forward would waste a golden opportunity to win the game in regulation time, as he mishit the ball and blasted it high into the sky.
Thirty minutes were left for both teams to find away to win the game, or the game would have to be decided in penalties. The Red Devils would respond by taking the lead three minutes after extra-time started with a stunning goal from Kevin De Bruyne.
Lukaku just entered the game at the start of extra-time, and he took very little time to make an impact. The 6-foot-3-inches forward bulldozed over American center back Matt Besler, and took off running towards the goal.
He speed and strength proved to be too much for the yanks to deal with. As he just knocked defenders out of the way, and entered the box. He dished out a finesse pass to a running De Bruyne.
Center back Omar Gonzalez was able to deflect the pass, but De Bruyne still got the ball and made a 180 turn to free himself up for a split second from Besler and Gonzalez. The 23-year-old midfielder with a very small angle blasted the ball to the bottom left hand corner of the net. The ball flew past the extended leg of Besler and of Howard and ripped the back of the net to give Belgium the 1-0 lead at the 103th minute.
The Americans had fallen behind in extra-time at almost the exact same time the U.S. fell behind against Ghana in 2010.
The Everton FC forward would be the main reason why the Red Devils second goal happened. Lukaku ran into the box, and De Bruyne placed an accurate pass to the Everton FC forward. Lukaku would then blast the ball to the upper left hand corner to give Belgium the 2-0 lead in the 105th minute.
“They brought big Rom on and he was a handful, he ran at us, scored a goal, created chances for other guys,” Howard told FIFA.com. “Big Rom changed the game.”
The Yanks though came back in the second period of over time. Klinsmann brought in 19-year-old Julian Green, and just by him walking on to the pitch he made history by becoming one of the first players to play in World Cup before he played for his club team Bayer Munich in the Bundesliga.
A minute after entering the game, he made even more history by scoring and becoming the youngest player to ever score in a World Cup for the United States, and the youngest Since Lionel Messi did in 2006.
Michael Bradley chipped the ball over a few players and placed the ball right into the path of the German/American winger. Green starred at the ball while running and timed his shot perfectly, while the ball was still in the air. Green kicked the ball into the right hand corner of the net to cut the lead 2-1 and start the comeback at the 106th minute.
The thousands of American Outlaws at the Arena Fonte Nova exploded, and began to chant “USA…USA…USA”, the entire stadium echoed the chant, and the Americans had a spark of life. The Stars and Stripes pounced on the Red Devils, as they appeared to just hold on and kill time by holding on to the ball.
The United States had one more clear chance to tie the game and send the game into penalties. At the 114th minute of the match the yanks were awarded a free kick right outside the top penalty box. Jermaine Jones and Bradley stood over the ball; Jones made a dummy run over the ball, Bradley then dished a pass to Wondolowski who was standing inside the box.
The Earthquake forward then passed the ball to a cutting Clint Dempsey, the captain was in front of the goal with the 22-year-old Belgium goalie Thibaut Courtois in his way. The Texas native shot the ball, and it seemed destined to enter the back of the net but Courtois made a huge reaction save and denied the Americans the goal, the tie, and their dream run came to an end with a body block from the young Belgium goalie.
“I want to congratulate Jurgen Klinsmann and the USA team, especially Tim Howard who had a fantastic game and I think we deserved to win,” Red Devils Coach Marc Wilmots told FIFA.com. “We played football, we were brave and we pushed ourselves to the limits. Sometimes in games like that when you have so many chances and you are denied, the result doesn’t go your way but we didn’t stop believing. Now we have four days to prepare for the Argentina game, which isn’t long. We’re not favorites but we want to win.”
Belgium will be taking on Argentina on Saturday, July 5 at Brasilia. As for the United States they will be heading back home after the magical run ends.
“It was a dramatic match,” Klinsmann told FIFA.com. “Belgium had more chances than we did but Tim Howard kept us in the game. The longer it went on the more opportunities we created though. Even after going 2-0 down we still hoped that we could get ourselves back in it if we got a goal, and that’s what happened. We had a couple of really good chances in the last few minutes and that’s where you hope that luck is on your side. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case today. I congratulate Belgium on reaching the next round.”
Highlights to this match can be seen on this link http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=intl:1927655, video provided by ESPN FC.