Linc Sport World Cup: Day 19

Extra time was the order of the day as both Argentina and Belgium required it to scrape through to the Quarter Finals of the World Cup where they will face each other.

Belgium ended the American dream following a pulsating 2-1 win over the USA.

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The American ‘soccer’ dream may be over but could this World Cup see the sport grow in the country?

The 0-0 score at full time was anything but the reflection of the game as both teams went all out for the win in what was a breathtaking 90 minutes.

Tim Howard was the American hero with one of the greatest performances in a World Cup ever, making fifteen saves, a record in a single match at a World Cup.

It was a mark of how the US set themselves up to attack the Belgians, often being caught on the counter attack.

Within a minute of the start he was called into action saving an early chance from Divock Origi with his legs.

Belgium dominated all through the half with Lille striker Origi threatening the resilient USA back four.

America weren’t without chances of their own as Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley combined to force Courtois into a save just before half time.

The Belgian dominance continued to grow in the second half but could not find a way past the Everton goalkeeper who was in inspired form.

Origi was first to test Howard late on, but his effort was beaten away.

Moments later, Howard got down low to flick a shot away from his Everton teammate Mirallas, before Hazard, who was dangerous throughout, forced him into another excellent save.

The Americans continued to get deeper and deeper, defending valiantly, but Howard was called into action again, tipping Origi’s fierce shot over.

USA held on but as Algeria a day before, conceded early in extra-time.

Jurgen Klinsmann’s men looked a spent force as subsitute Romelu Lukaku, introduced at full time, bullied his was down the wing before squaring it to Kevin de Bruyne who provided a neat finish to finally end the American resistance.

It was Lukaku again who looked to have sealed the win for Belgium as he blasted past his former teammate Howard right at the end of the first half of extra time.

But America weren’t done yet.

Within two minutes of the second half, they had dragged themselves back into the game, with a brilliant goal.

Michael Bradley played a wonderful ball over the top for substitute Julian Green to volley past Courtois to give the US hope again.

They threw the kitchen sink at Belgium in the last ten minutes. Jermaine Jones first saw an effort creep agonisingly wide before a clever free-kick routine saw Dempsey go one on one but again Courtois stood tall and denied the former Fulham and Spurs man.

The Belgians held on but it is the Americans who will receive a lot of credit for their resilient and courageous performance.

Howard, Jones, Bradley, Yedlin and Bedoya were all fantastic and the nation, not known for its footballing prowess, can be extremely proud of their team.

In the earlier game, Argentina required extra time to see off Switzerland. After a goalless 90 minutes, Angel di Maria scored late on in extra time to break Swiss hearts.

The ninety minutes was largely uninspiring as Argentina dominated possession but could not find the breakthrough.

Despite being second best for much of the first half, it was the Swiss who created the best chance. Xherdan Shaqiri’s cute cutback was struck towards goal by Granit Xhaka, but Sergio Romero palmed it away.

Argentina again dominated the second half but could create a clear chance for the likes of Messi or Higuain. Extra time.

With penalties looming, Angel di Maria, who had a wasteful game, finally found the breakthrough, sweeping the ball into the bottom corner having been set up by Lionel Messi.

The Swiss, who looked devastated by the goal, nearly made it a thrilling finally as defender Blerim Dzemaili headed against the Argentina post before stabbing the rebound wide but Argentina held on.

The wins for Belgium and Argentina means that the eight group winners all won their Second Round matches for the first time since the World Cup changed to an eight group format.

Quarter final draw in full…

Brazil vs Columbia

Netherlands vs Costa Rica

Germany vs France

Argentina vs Belgium

 

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