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WORLD CUP: Keeper heroics fail to save USA as Belgium progress

World Cup Round 16 Belgium 2-1 USA AET De Bruyne 93, Lukaku 105 Green 107 Belgium deserved their place in the quarter finals but needed extra time to defeat the USA 2-1 but how their opponents gave them a scare in extra time to have the Europeans hanging on for the final whistle.

Belgium made it four successive victories at the World Cup but they almost threw away a game of high drama and splendid entertainment, for after missing a host of chances they scored twice in extra time and seemingly coasting, only for the USA to rally and reduce the deficit and have two good opportunities to take the game to penalties.

Such was the commitment of the USA players that they survived 90 minutes scoreless through a mixture of dogged defending, poor finishing from Belgium and the heroics of keeper Tim Howard who made a series of saves to keep his country in the game.

Belgium had the quality, particularly in the second half, when they fashioned enough opportunities to have seen the game out comfortably yet there was always the danger they might pay a price for their wastefulness by a swift counter attack from the USA.

Their was drama and excitement over the 90 minutes but that went up a level in extra time as the USA staged a remarkable comeback. From looking tired and defeated it was Belgium who were desperate to hear the final whistle.

Yet within 120 seconds of the final 30 minutes the USA finally buckled as substitute Romelu Lukaku powered forward and laid the ball off to Keven De Bruyne who put Belgium ahead.

It seemed game over for America when shortly afterwards the goalscorer turned provider allowing Lukaku to double their lead.

The USA looked beaten but gave themselves a lifeline within a minute of the second half as substitute Julian Green reduced the deficit with a volleyed effort. Now it was the turn of Belgium to look vulnerable as the USA gained a new lease of life and relentlessly pushed forward for an unlikely equaliser.

And twice America went agonisingly close as the tension rose to unbearable levels. Jermaine Jones fired a loose ball narrowly wide of the post from close range, then a superbly worked free kick prised open the Belgium rearguard but Clint Dempsey saw his shot smothered by keeper Thibaut Courtois.

Still the USA exerted pressure but to no avail and a relieved Belgium make the quarter finals and a meeting with Argentina on Saturday.

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Ian Ferris
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Ian Ferris

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