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World Cup Run Ends for the United States

World Cup
The United States Men’s National Team lost to Belgium on July 1, ending its 2014 World Cup run. (Thinkstock)

Despite what an ESPN commentator called one of the greatest goalkeeper performances in World Cup history, Belgium scored two goals in extra time to send the United States Men’s National Team back home.

Surviving the Group of Death is about the only recorded accomplishment summarizing the United States berth in the 2014 World Cup, as the Americans lost a 2-1 heartbreaker to Belgium at Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador, Brazil, on July 1. With the loss, the United States is officially eliminated from World Cup play.

“He does not deserve to be on the losing side,” Ian Darke, the lead commentator on the match’s ESPN feed said of Howard’s performance.

Howard made 16 saves in the match, perhaps the most made by a goalkeeper since at least the 1960s.

The United States scored its sole goal in the second half of extra time, when Julian Green found the back of the net in the 107th minute to cut the Belgium lead in half. Just moments later, Michael Bradley fired a shot toward the Belgium goal but missed just wide right.

Green’s goal seemed to give the United States extra life, but despite several furious attempts to score the equalizer and force penalty kicks fell short.

Belgium had its opportunities early and seemed to have significantly more advantages to end the match in regulation, but the United States managed to make the right defensive stops at the right time to keep its hopes alive.

But Belgium finally found the back of the net when defender Kevin De Bruyne broke the scoreless tie in the 93rd minute with a rifled shot passed Howard. The Belgium goal came on its 31st shot. Coincidentally, the United States attempted 32 shots for the entire tournament through the moment when the first Belgium goal.

It became 2-0 in the 105th minute when forward Romelu Lukaku scored from the left side of the box.

In regulation, Jermaine Jones had a chance to win it for the United States in the 93rd minute with a point blank shot in front of Belgium goalkeeper Thibout Courtois. But Jones overshot the goal as the ball went flying over the top crossbar. Had Jones found the back of the net, the goal would have been late enough to preserve a victory for the United States in regulation time.

A few minutes earlier, Howard made an impressive – and near impossible – shot on goal by Belgium defender Vincent Kompany in the 90th minute.

Both teams failed to score any goals in regulation.

Belgium won all three of its games in Group play, defeating Algeria (2-1), Russia (1-0), and the Korean Republic (1-0).

In its Group play, the United States was 1-1-1, defeating Ghana in its opener before tying with Portugal and losing to Germany.

Belgium will now face Argentina in the quarterfinal match.

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