Belgium break Howard to sink U.S. in extra time

Tue Jul 1, 2014 8:58pm EDT
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By Neil Maidment

SALVADOR Brazil (Reuters) - Much-fancied Belgium needed extra time to crack heroic United States goalkeeper Tim Howard in a thrilling 2-1 extra-time victory on Tuesday that set up a World Cup quarter-final clash with Argentina.

The Belgians had dominated the first 90 minutes but a barrage of efforts were thwarted by an inspired Howard, whose resistance was finally broken in the 93rd minute when midfielder Kevin De Bruyne buried an angled shot from seven meters.

In a pulsating extra time, substitute striker Rome Lukaku powered home a second in the 105th minute after a clever De Bruyne pass, before Julian Green's neat volley ensured a tense finish in which Clint Dempsey almost sneaked an equalizer.

"We had about 15 chances, we were controlling the game I think it is largely deserved even though at the end we conceded one," Belgium coach Marc Wilmots told reporters.

"My players reached their limits to qualify. I said fresh legs would be important today and that is how it was. Now the whole of Belgium can celebrate."

Wilmots's side had arrived at the Fonte Nova arena with three successive wins in Brazil, although the team's lackluster performances had raised doubts about their ability to go deep into the tournament.

Much sharper attacking intent against the U.S. would have pleased their fans, although congratulations would have turned to recriminations had U.S. substitute Chris Wondolowski not horribly skewed wide from five meters in the last seconds of normal time.

"It was real drama, a thriller, we had enough possibilities to equalized the game or even put it away earlier," said U.S. coach Juergen Klinsmann, whose side had seen off Ghana and Portugal to qualify for the last 16.   Continued...

Belgium's Vincent Kompany (C, red) shakes hands with Jermaine Jones of the U.S. after their 2014 World Cup round of 16 game at the Fonte Nova arena in Salvador July 1, 2014. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci