ROUND OF 16
BELGIUM 2-1 UNITED STATES
AFTER EXTRA TIME
TUESDAY 1ST JULY – SALVADOR
Divick Origi, who Wimots preferred to the disappointing Romelu Lukaka, nearly fired Belgium ahead within the opening minutes. Astonishingly, after just 40 seconds, the ball was played through to Origi by Kevin De Bruyne, and it took a smart stop from Tim Howard to deny the 19-year-old the second-quickest goal of the 2014 World Cup. The fastest strike of the tournament came courtesy of his opposite number Clint Dempsey, of course.
The next minutes were an extension of a blistering start to the match, in line with the trend of this World Cup, however not so much so far in the knockout stages. Belgium break with Eden Hazard playing a quick return pass with Origi but Geoff Cameron was there to wrestle the ball from the Chelsea man, who no doubt would have been through on goal were it not for Cameron’s intervention.
As the match went on, the USA looked increasingly susceptible to the Belgian counter attack when they committed numbers forward themselves, and looked particularly vulnerable when the Red Devils’ skilful attackers were running with the ball.
Almost invetibaly, the first booking of the match arose in these cirumstances when after 17 minutes Stoke City’s Cameron came in with a very late on challenge on Dries Mertens.
Moments later USA saw their first real first attacking foray. Cameron was involved once more with the 28-year-old meeting a corner, but he couldn’t head it in to the path of the on-running Clint Dempsey.
Klinsmann’s men were gaining a foothold in this last 16 tie and threatened Belgium’s goal again. Michael Bradley picked the ball up 30 yards out and his piercing run culminated in a pass to Clint Dempsey whose shot from 14 yards was comfortably saved by Courtois diving to his right.
However, the open nature of the match meant neither site could enjoy a break in defence. On 23 minutes Graham Zusi was caught in possession on half way by Jan Vertonghen. The Spurs defender had a plethora of options and found Kevin De Bruyne, but De Bruyne wasted a great opportunity by placing his shot wide.
Belgium continued to attack with purpose but struggled to fashion a real breakthrough.Numerous crosses were cleared by the Americans and Eden Hazard’s shot from distance was easily saved by Howard. It was one of few clear efforts at goal from the Red Devils who were continually being thwarted by the sheer number of bodies on the edge of the US box.
Seven minutes prior to the break, Daniel Van Buyten, who has silenced his critics citing his age during this World Cup, put an experienced head to the ball, denying Clint Dempsey an effort at Courtois’ goal.
The first half came to end with DeAndre Yedlin’s marauding run down the right. However his cut-back just evaded Graham Zusi who was poised to apply the finishing touch.
Belgium started strongly in the second period, with a number of chances falling to Origi with ten minutes of the restart. The Lille forward was poised to fire his country ahead, but he came agonisingly short from reaching the ball, with glory just inches away.
Origi had another opportunity to break the deadlock on 55. Toby Alderweireld’s cross fell to the unmarked Origi who watched on as his header cleared Tim Howard but bounced off the crossbar to safety.
The ferocious Belgium onslaught continued with Jan Vertonghen delicately controlling the ball in the area. Vertonghen did well to fashion a chance, however he found Howard’s legs in the way of a second World Cup goal.
But USA were never out of it and looked to take the lead themselves. Zusi found himself inside the box and blasted an effort across goal that was cleared following a scramble for the ball.
The end to end nature of the match came to the fore as first shot wide and Vertonghen and Origi, the most dangerous player on the park, were denied by Howard before Dempsey was thwarted by Thibaut Courtois.
With normal time coming to an end, Belgium threw the proverbial kitchen sink at the USA. Hazard fashioned some delightful interplay with Origi, then substitute Kevin Mirallas received a beautifully-timed through ball, but the Everton man Mirallas saw his shot tipped around the post by his club teammate Howard between the sticks for Klinsmann’s ever-tiring eleven.
Besler, who had typified the American resolute defensive performance throughout, put in a superb challenge to block Van Buyten’s goalbound shot after Kompany’s cute pass through following one of Belgium’s 16 corners.
Both Origi and Hazard came close to winning the match for the Red Devils in the final minutes to no avail but Wilmots must have thought his country were through when Vincent Kompany won possession in his own box before setting off on a pitch-long run. The captain’s individual brilliance resulted in a low cross which Kompany himself diverted goalwards, only to see Howard once more tip the ball around the post.
However in added time USA very nearly completed the ultimate smash-and-grab victory. Jermaine Jones flicked a cross into the path of Wondolowski who only had to hit the target from four yards out. But he somehow directed his shot over the bar and was relieved to see the assistant referee’s flag raised, sparing his blushes.
Neither side had found the net in 93 minutes of normal time, and another World Cup knockout match headed into extra time.
Just three minutes into the added half an hour, Belgium took the lead. Lukaku robbed the ball from the usually reliable Besler and set off down the right and into the box. He squared it into the path of De Bruyne who displayed composure to find space, and fired the ball past Howard into the far corner. It was the midfielder’s fifth goal for his country.
The Red Devils doubled their lead just before half-time of extra time. This time it was De Bruyne’s turn to play in Lukaku who beat Howard with a powerful shot at the near post. Howard had been beaten twice in eleven minutes, despite registering the most ever saves in a World Cup match.
However, USA had displayed a great spirit during the tournament and they weren’t going to give up without a fight. After 107 minutes substitute Julian Green fired his country back into the game. Michael Bradley displayed great vision to chip the ball into Green before the young Bayern Munich winger volleyed past Courtois.
An American fightback followed and they nearly found themselves level after a brilliant free-kick move. The improvised set-piece culminated in Clint Dempsey having possession eight yards out but before he could apply the finish, a rushing Courtois blocked the ball.
Despite being under intense pressure, Belgium held out and advance to the quarter-finals where they face Argentina in Brasilia on Saturday.
Belgium: Courtois, Alderweireld, Van Buyten, Kompany, Vertonghen, Fellaini, Witsel, Mertens (Mirallas 60), De Bruyne, Hazard (Chadli 111), Origi (Lukaku 91).
Subs: Mignolet, Vermaelen, Lombaerts, Dembele, Januzaj, Ciman, Bossut.
Goals: De Bruyne (93), Lukaku (105)
USA: Howard, Johnson (Yedlin 32), Gonzalez, Besler, Beasley, Cameron, Zusi (Wondolowski 72), Jones, Bradley, Bedoya (Green 105+2), Dempsey.
Subs: Guzan, Brooks, Johannsson, Diskerud, Davis, Beckerman, Altidore, Chandler, Rimando.
Goals: Green (107)
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