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World Cup 2014
 

Belgium 2 USA 1: Highlights, key battles, and what this result means

Published on Jul 2, 2014 7:38 AM
 

In reality, this was a 2-1 win for Belgium that took Hazard and co to the next round. But those who caught the action would agree that despite the loss, the Americans somehow still won.

A world-class performance from Tim Howard kept the Belgians at bay until extra-time, when two goals in the first half from Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne made it seem as if there was no way back for the worn out Americans.

Still, just like how they somehow made it out of the Group of Death, Jurgen Klinsmann's side never gave up until the final second. The team got one back through a brilliant strike from Julian Green, and very nearly forced a penalty shoot out.

Highlights

Belgian soccer fans cheer after their team scored a goal against the US in the World Cup during a watching party in the Kogod Courtyard of the Smithsonian National Portait Gallery on July 1, 2014 in Washington, United States. -- PHOTO: AFP

- Belgium were their typical selves again, creating plenty of chances in attack thanks mainly to fine work from De Bruyne, but were so lacking when it came to the finish. Tim Howard pulled off no less than 15 saves during the match to deny the Belgians.

Right from the get-go and within the first minute of the match, Howard denied Divock Origi after the teenager got away from the dozing American centre backs and fired a low diagonal shot that Howard stopped after spreading his legs wide. That was just a sign of what was to come for the rest of the night.

- The Red Devils constantly kept the American defenders on the back foot, following up with plenty of chances although some of their finishing was disappointing.

- Substitute Chris Wondolowski almost gave the US the precious match-winner in stoppage time, but blew the sitter by sending the volley high and wide. Even if he had scored, he would have been ruled offside, but replays showed that it would have been an erroneous decision.

- The game really took off in extra-time. Lukaku coming on for Origi had an immediate impact. His fresh legs beat centre back Matt Besler, sending in a cross for De Bruyne to slot the ball into the bottom left corner.

- De Bruyne returned the favour for Lukaku, delivering the ball from the left flank into the box for Lukaku to fire it over Howard.

- The US's last substitution, Green, gave hope just when it seemed over for the Americans. The 19-year-old rookie executed a fine volley with what was virtually his first touch after a floating pass from Michael Bradley.

- Awarded a free kick in the dying minutes of the match, the US pulled off a exquisite free kick routine, confusing the Belgians. Playing it from Michael Bradley to DeAndre Yedlin, to Clint Dempsey almost beat the Belgians. Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois made himself big for his save of the match.

Key battles

Eden Hazard v DeAndre Yedlin/Graham Zusi
With Hazard such a key playmaker on the Belgian side, being able to shut him down would always go a long way in keeping the Belgians quiet. Fabian Johnson was the starting right back, but had to be substituted early on after pulling a hamstring.

What seemed like a disastrous start for the Americans actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise when Yedlin came on for Johnson. Despite his youth, the 20-year-old rose to the occasion and did a better job than Johnson of containing Hazard. Yedlin's pace and fearlessness also made an immediate impact in creating chances up front for the Americans.

Zusi, however, had a dismal match. The midfielder was largely ineffective and did little to give his side bite in attack.

Kevin De Bruyne v Jermaine Jones/Geoff Cameron

Leaving Beckerman out of the match looks, in retrospect, to have been a wrong move. De Bruyne was allowed to run riot for most of the match, scoring once and assisting Belgium's other goal. Jones, having played a big part in the US's games so far, tired quickly.

Cameron looked lost and didn't seem to have understanding with Jones or Howard. The midfield was left a little too open for De Bruyne to exploit.

Man of the Match

Tim Howard

DaMarcus Beasley turned back the clock, Yedlin was fearless despite the magnitude of the occasion, and Belgium are the ones who go through - but this was without doubt Tim Howard's night.

His 16 saves is the most ever in a World Cup game in the last 50 years and it is a record he fully deserves. He single-handedly carried his team throughout the match. The game could very easily had been an absolute thrashing if not for him.

What this result means

All eight group winners win their Round of 16 ties. Belgium will move on to play Argentina in the quarter-finals. Coach Marc Wilmots said previously he does not mind winning ugly if it gets the job done. The team have grinded out yet another result, but the overall quality of the Argentinian side will be starkly different than that of the Americans.

Creating chances will not be enough if they can't find the net.

The US had already beaten the odds by making the knockout stages, coming through from the Group of Death when nobody gave them any chance. Definitely won over fans the world over, if not from their own country.

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