Belgium 2-1 USA
Story of the match:
- Howard makes most saves in World Cup history
- Kevin de Bruyne puts Belgium ahead
- Lukaku adds a second in second period
- Julian Green volley gives US late hope
- Game sees 56 efforts on goal
Belgium's golden generation earned the chance to live up to their billing as they reached a first World Cup quarter-final for 28 years with an extra-time win over the USA in Salvador.
This was another brilliant and breathless occasion. Belgium walk away deserving winners but only after a performance of incredible spirit and bravery from the US.
As it was, Kevin de Bruyne scored the goal that finally broke USA resistance in the second minute of extra time at Arena Fonte Nova. Substitute Romelu Lukaku fired in a second 11 minutes later to apparently end the contest.
The US would not go quietly, though. From nowhere they rose up to find hope and with it a goal from substitute Julian Green, who volleyed brilliantly past Thibaut Courtois. Jermaine Jones and Clint Dempsey both had chances to take the match to penalties but neither was able to take the chance to extend the USA's dream.
That Jurgen Klinsmann's men survived so long owed everything to an outstanding goalkeeping performance by Tim Howard, who made a record number of saves in a World Cup match. In front of him, his team-mates were simply outclassed.
Belgium will now play Argentina in a mouth-watering quarter-final in Brasilia on Saturday. On this evidence, they will take some beating.
This was a battle of flair against function. Belgium, with their jet-heeled forwards and unquestioned technical superiority, against the organisation and energy of the United States.
|Tim Howard made more saves in a single game (15) than any other player in World Cup history (1966-2014).||Four of Belgium's six goals at the 2014 World Cup have been scored by substitutes.|
|Julian Green scored with his first ever touch of the ball in the World Cup.||Seven of the USA's 17 shots against Belgium came in the second period of extra-time.|
Eden Hazard and Divock Origi were a pair of nuisances and their willingness to run at their opponents, and sheer athletic ability, caused the US problems throughout the 120 minutes.
Kevin De Bruyne scuffed two chances wide and sent a third straight at Howard as Jurgen Klinsmann's side too often left themselves open to the counter-attack - Hazard, De Bruyne, Origi and Jan Vertonghen rampaged into wide open spaces in the US half.
DaMarcus Beasley's vital interception then denied Marouane Felliani at the back post as Belgium took the game by the scruff of the neck. The US were reliant on Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey to create their best moments and the pair combined to test Courtois just before half-time.
If the US had been second best in the first half, they hung on in the second. Belgium monopolised possession as the US dropped deeper and deeper.
Toby Alderweireld was finding space down the right from where he delivered a cross that Origi headed onto the top of Howard's crossbar. Hazard went close with flick soon after, and the introduction of substitute Kevin Mirallas only reinforced Belgium's dominance. He scythed through the US defence, the ball running to Origi, whose shot was beaten away by Howard.
Moments later, Howard was sprawling low to flick a shot away from Mirallas, his Everton team-mate, before Hazard drew another brilliant save.
The veteran keeper was at it again soon after, tipping Origi's fierce shot over.
Somehow, the US got over the line and into extra time - but the respite was brief.
The introduction of Lukaku had an immediate impact. He burst down the right and although his cross-shot was blocked by Matt Besler, De Bruyne pounced on the loose ball, found a yard of space and shot unerringly into the far corner.
De Bruyne then turned provider to find Chelsea striker, who turned the ball into the net with a brilliant finish at the near post.
With the US apparently dead and buried, there was a twist in the tale. Green, on as a substitute, latched onto Bradley's floated pass and fired a stunning volley beyond Courtois with practically his first touch of the match.
As late as it was, the US found new purpose. Jones poked just wide, before Dempsey found himself in possession eight yards out after a clever free-kick. The stadium held its breath but the American was denied by Courtois once more.
Belgium coach Marc Wilmots: "We had a lot of opportunities, and we dominated the game, and in the end it was well deserved even if it was scary with the US goal.
"Lukaku had been much criticised, and I told him, 'do not worry - the second round might be your day', and that's what happened.
"Tom Howard had a fantastic match but we need to forget about this match and focus on Argentina.
"There shouldn't be any more worries from the media about us not playing football."