Belgium scored twice in extra time and held off a furious rally from the United States to win 2-1 Tuesday and move into the quarterfinals of the World Cup.
In a word, it was an exhilirating game. In perhaps a more appropriate word for the American set, it was agonizing.
The US battled valiantly -- namely Tim Howard, who played out of his mind in goal -- but they couldn't overcome two goals by Belgium in the first period of extra time.
And, to be fair, there were numerous, numerous chances that Belgium perhaps should have converted in the first 90 minutes. But Howard continued turning them away, time after time.
The Americans, too, had chances of their own, the best one coming just before full time, when Chris Wondolowski sent a shot high and wide from just in front of the net.
From there we moved to extra time, and Belgium dominated from the outcome. Kevin De Bruyne started the scoring in the 93rd minute, and Romelu Lukaku put in a second just before the whistle in the first overtime period.
The US, it seemed, was dead in the water.
But then a flash of offense, as Michael Bradley sent a beautiful ball over the Belgium defense to 19-year-old Julian Green, who volleyed it in for a goal. It was the first time Green has been on the field in Brazil. Quite an entrance.
The attack was on for the final 15 minutes or so, but the Americans just couldn't get the equalizer -- despite coming ridiculously close. The best chance came on a free kick play, when Bradley played the ball to Clint Dempsey's, whose touch was just a bit too firm, allowing Belgium keeper Thibaut Courtois to block any shot attempt.
And that was it. A brilliant effort from the American side, who battled through a powerful group and then 120 minutes against one of the best sides in the world. Not sure you could ask for much more than that.
FINAL: United States 1 (Green 107') - Belgium 2 (De Bruyne 93', Lukaku 105')
120' -- Green sends a nice cross to Yedlin, but that's all she wrote, folks. Ugh. Credit the US for coming back and making it hurt more, I guess.
117' -- Relentless attack here from the US. Jones kills the build-up by blasting a shot high.
114' -- There is no way to accurately put into words how close the Americans just came to tying the game. I don't plan to try. Wonderful play on the free kick.
113' -- US lining up a free kick just above the box.
108' -- Oh my goodness. Jermaine Jones just misses the equalizer. Oh man. Just wide. Ohh.
107' -- WHOA HANG ON. Julian Green, WHO IS 19, just volleyed in a goal. So, some hope??
105' -- Welp, that should do it. De Bruyne finds Lukaku who beats Howard near post. He can't do it all, folks.
104' -- Tim Howard just got his 15th save. That's absurd.
103' -- US gets another go in the box, but the cross is cleared. Then, to add injury to insult, Jermaine Jones takes a clearance ball to the face.
100' -- Decent chance for the US in the box, but they can't get a shot off. Time is ticking.
97' -- Lukaku gets a go, but he's blocked. Belgium still holding possession.
93' -- UGH NO BELGIUM GOAL. De Bruyne finally gets one through. He has had a ton of chances. It's sad in here.
91' -- Free soccer! Well, it has all been free, but you know what I mean.
Full time: Okay! Two 15-minute halves then, if still tied, penalty kicks. Ready your nerves, if they haven't frayed themselves into an oblivion by this point.
90'+ -- Oh no. No no no. Wondolowski misses from the doorstep. That was very upsetting. Apparently he had been called offsides. He was not offsides.
90' -- Kompany nearly sneaks home a cross with a cheeky back heel.
88' -- Hazard sends one into the side netting.
85' -- Origi sends a missile in -- another great save by Howard.
83' -- Chance upon chance upon chance for Belgium. Hats off to the US defense. They've been pretty spectacular.
79' -- ANOTHER amazing save from Howard. How long can he keep this up? Eden Hazard's blast stopped.
76' -- That looked like a certain goal, but Howard just gets a foot to Kevin Mirallas' strike. REALLY dodged a bullet there.
74' -- Dempsey, again. Still not much of a tester for Courtois.
71' -- Dempsey tries, stopped. WHOA Origi stopped by Howard. That was well struck.
69' -- That was scary. Witsel tries and it goes a bit wide.
67' -- Courtois, who appears to be 800 feet tall, steals Yedlin's cross just ahead of Bedoya.
65' -- I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but this has been Belgium's style all tournament. This has been the point of the game when they have struck .
64' -- Vertonghen tries from distance, stopped by Howard. Belgium has taken 18 shots. The US, 3. Quite a telling disparity.
60' -- Quick cross in for Belgium that somehow ends up going wide of the goal. My stomach hurts.
58' -- US chance! Some tense moments for Belgium as the Americans test the defense for the first time this half.
56' -- Eww. Origi's header skims the crossbar. The goal appears to be coming. It's target practice.
54' -- Vertonghen sends a cross that somehow misses the foot of De Bruyne and Origi, and it instead skitters harmlessly through the box. That was tense.
52' -- Fellaini, the guy with the hair, has a try from distance but it sails high. Belgium has dominated possession this half.
47' -- Howard tips a header over the bar after the US lose the ball in the midfield.
46' -- Back at it. Interesting to see how this goes.
Halftime: Well, not bad. This is pretty much what we expected. The US got some good chances, as did Belgium, but this is kind of what the Belgians have done. Played even, scored late. Let's hope that isn't the case today.
45' -- Fancy play from Yedlin, but the keeper is able to get it clear. De Bruyne gets a good chance at the top of the box, but Howard there for the stop.
41' -- Chances somewhat piling up for the Americans, and Kompany gets a yellow. CLEARLY HE'S FRUSTRATED AND WORRIED.
39' -- Good cross and chance for Dempsey, but he just can't get his head to it.
34' -- Dempsey sets up Jermaine Jones, who strikes it well, but wide.
33' -- Hey, Yedlin earns a corner! Good job, new guy!
32' -- Johnson off, DeAndre Yedlin on.
30' -- Fabian Johnson down. Grabbing his hamstring. Of course.
28' -- The US just doesn't look comfortable in the back third. That's going to be an issue.
26' -- Another chance for Belgium, but Beasley gets back and spoils the cross. They're, um, getting closer.
23' -- Zusi with a giveaway at midfield, but De Bruyne bails him out with an awful finish in the box. The US has played well, that notwithstanding, the last five minutes or so.
21' -- OHHHHHH noooooooo. Bradley plays Dempsey at the top of the box, but Courtois there for the save.
20' -- Cameron gets a head on Zusi's corner, but it's wide and weak.
18' -- Geoff Cameron gets a yellow card after tripping Martens as he worked forward.
16' -- Fan on the field. Don't be alarmed.
14' -- Origi gets whacked in the leg, comes off for some treatment. Well wait he's back on.
12' -- Geoff Cameron nearly gets his second goal of the tournament. For the opponent, that is. Careful clearance by Cameron nearly takes the ball out of Howard's hands. Better safe than sorry, I guess?
6' -- DaMarcus Beasley with a spirited run forward, channeling his inner...DaMarcus Beasley circa 2002.
4' -- Decent chance for the Americans, at least a slight show of offensive prowess. Little shaky to start, to say the least.
2' -- Another give-away, chance for De Bruyne, out for a corner. Ugh?
1' -- That is the exact start the US did not need. Early give-away and break, but Origi's is stuffed by Howard. The exact opposite of what the US wanted. Possession. Keep possession.
1' -- Oh boy it started. Here we go.
3:50 p.m. ET: Lot of, uh, lot of red, white, and blue in the crowd, it seems. I guess. I don't know, I'm nervous.
3:35 p.m. ET: The lineups are out, and there's no Jozy Altidore. Vincent Kompany will be starting for Belgium, so the early luck has gone in the favor of the Belgians.
So be it. Here are the full lineups.
Belgium: Courtois; Alderweireld, Van Buyten, Kompany, Vertonghen; Witsel, Fellaini; Mertens, De Bruyne, Hazard; Origi.
United States: Howard; Johnson, Gonzalez, Besler, Beasley; Cameron, Bradley, Jones; Zusi, Dempsey, Bedoya
USA vs. Belgium | Kickoff: 7/1, 4 p.m. ET | Stadium: Fonte Nova, Salvador
Match Preview: The United States will have the opportunity Tuesday to move into the quarterfinals of the World Cup for the first time since 2002 and just the third time in history.
There's two ways the Round of 16 match against Belgium can be viewed. First, the US was able to somehow navigate the so-called "Group of Death," something few gave them much of a chance of doing. At this point, really, they're playing with the house's money. Any success, however minor, beyond the group stage is cause for celebration.
On the other hand, Belgium is a team the United States can beat.
Of course this latter stance takes some qualifying. Belgium is teeming with professional talent -- their roster features 12 players from the English Premier League -- and they've yet to lose while in Brazil. Plus, in a friendly last year, the Belgians smoked the Americans, 4-2.
Certainly, there's plenty working against the US, especially in terms of overall talent. But there are some positives. Belgium is banged up, especially in the defensive third, where they may be without standout and captain Vincent Kompany, among others. The Americans got a bit of good news Monday on their own injury front when it was announced that striker Jozy Altidore will be available for the game. Possibly having Altidore with Dempsey up front greatly improves the American attack, which looked quite weak against Germany.
And while Belgium still boasts an advantage, they haven't looked like the powerful, cohesive unit that was expected of them. But they've taken care of business, winning every game so far this World Cup.
When it comes down to it, Belgium should win Tuesday. They have the superior side, and the US defense has been shaky and their possession quite weak. But it's certainly not a given.
This is a Belgium team that has looked shaky and vulnerable itself, and someone will take them down. It just may not be the Americans.