In a day of heartbreak for US fans, the Round of 16 came to a close with Group Stage winners Argentina and Belgium advancing to the quarterfinals.
Here’s how Day 19 shaped up:
Argentina 1-0 Switzerland
Heavy favorites Argentina, barely escaped out of the Round of 16 with a last minute game-winner in extra time to escape past an extremely tough Swiss side.
Switzerland put in a valiant defensive effort, managing to keep Argentina at bay for the majority of the match. The Swiss defense forced the Albiceleste to play out wide and send in crosses that Switzerland’s back line did well to clear out of danger. More importantly, the Swiss were able to keep the ball away from world-best Lionel Messi, not allowing him to get a single shot on goal in the first half. The defensive emphasis came at a cost though, with Switzerland’s lone striker Josip Drmic basically left on an island by himself and unable to produce much of an offensive threat.
The second half saw Argentina come to life and jumpstart its threatening offense. The Argentines piled on the attack but were unable to break through Switzerland’s staunch defense with Swiss goalkeeper Diego Benaglio coming up with some huge saves to keep the European side alive. After 90 minutes and the sides both scoreless, the game headed into extra time where Argentina was finally able to get on the scoresheet. The moment of magic came in the 118th minute through none other than Messi, after he weaved his way through the center of Switzerland’s defense to feed Di Maria who was able to provide the clinical finish. But the Swiss refused to give up in the dying moments, nearly finding the equalizing goal in the 121st minute after Switzerland’s Blerim Dzemaili had an open header from less than six yards out that went off the post.
Argentina will take on Belgium in the quarterfinals on July 5 at 10:00 a.m. MT on ESPN.
USA 1-2 Belgium
The United States’ run in the 2014 World Cup came to an end yesterday, suffering a heartbreaking 2-1 loss to Belgium in extra time. After working hard to keep a clean sheet for 90 minutes through a heroic performance from US goalkeeper Tim Howard, the Americans went down 2-0 quickly in extra time. The US never quit though, almost staging an amazing comeback when it cut the deficit in half in the 107th minute through late substitute Julian Green. The US continued its attack in the final minutes of extra time but were unable to find the equalizing goal to send the game to PKs.
The start of the match had many scratching their heads when RSL Captain Kyle Beckerman was not in the starting lineup for the first time in the World Cup. Beckerman had started and played all 270 minutes in the US’s three Group Stage matches and earned high accolades for his performance, some even claiming he was the best US player in the tournament. Geoff Cameron started in his place, the usual center back put into the midfield for the first time in Brazil.
US Manager Jurgen Klinsmann opted to keep the same defensive formation it had used in the group stage with Clint Dempsey playing the lone forward. The US was unable to jumpstart any real offense or maintain much possession throughout the match, undergoing waves of attack from Belgium for the majority of the game. US goalkeeper Tim Howard, who was named Man of the Match, had one of the best performances of his career, making a total of 16 saves – a World Cup record.
Tim Howard, take a bow. 16 saves tonight, the most by any GK in a World Cup game since 1966. pic.twitter.com/5fWY0MIp6R— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) July 1, 2014
Despite Belgium’s dominance, the US had a golden opportunity score the game-winner in stoppage time when the ball popped up in front of substitute Chris Wondolowski from eight yards out, but the San Jose forward fluffed his open chance, sending his attempt wide of the net.
After a regulation time ended scoreless the sides went into extra time where a clearly exhausted US squad fell 1-0 early in the 93rd minute. The Americans were unable to contain Belgian substitute Romelu Lukaku who powered his way through the US back line and centered the ball which US defender Omar Gonzalez was unable to clear and De Bruyne finished to the far corner. Lukaku went on to double Belgium’s lead in the 105th minute, breaking on the counter and coolly finishing past Howard.
The US put in its best offensive performance after going down, playing its heart out for the final minutes of extra time. The Americans were able to cut the deficit in half in the 107th minute after midfielder Michael Bradley deftly chipped a ball in over Belgium’s back line where US youngster Julian Green hit the ball one-time to beat Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois. Despite a handful of chances in the dying moments, the Americans were unable to complete the comeback, officially ending their run in the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
Belgium will now face Argentina in the quarterfinals on July 5 at 10:00 a.m. MT on ESPN.