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
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
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.
"It was a game that just went to the extreme."
In a sign of things to come, striker Divock Origi was in on goal
inside 40 seconds, only to see his low drive parried away by Howard
and more chances stacked up as the U.S. were forced to set up camp
outside their own box and look for quick breaks.
The lively De Bruyne should have done better after 23 minutes having
found space in the box, while Clint Dempsey's tame volley was the
Americans' only chance of the first half.
The Belgian onslaught cranked up a gear after the break with the
scrambling U.S. defense grateful to see Howard save efforts by Dries
Mertens and Jan Vertonghen before Origi's header hit the crossbar.
A Kevin Mirallas run and shot, two more stinging Origi drives and a
Vincent Kompany effort were all dealt with by Howard, who faced 38
attempts on his goal during the game.
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With extra time moments away, Wondolowski missed a glorious chance
that the Americans would come to rue.
All Belgium's goals in Brazil had been scored after the 70th-minute
mark and their persistence finally paid off in extra time when De
Bruyne was given time and space to turn and fire home after Lukaku
raced down the right wing to cross.
The midfielder soon returned the favor, teeing up the frontman to
power home a second and spark a thrilling finale.
Roared on by deafening chants of 'USA', Klinsmann's side summoned
the energy to raise American hopes.
Midfielder Green met a delicately chipped Michael Bradley pass to
volley home two minutes later and Dempsey almost forced penalties,
only for his clever set-piece effort to be foiled by Thibaut
"It was heart-breaking. We left it all out there but we lost to a
really good team. It hurts but hats off to Belgium they were
fantastic," Howard said.
"Sometimes when you give your best it doesn't come off."
The win sealed Belgium's first World Cup quarter-final appearance
since 1986 and they will next play Argentina on Saturday.
(Editing by Ed Osmond)
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