Tim Howard did everything he possibly could to get the United States to the quarterfinals, but it was the one shot he couldn't stop in the opening minutes of extra time that proved the difference. Kevin De Bruyne scored the match winner in the 93rd minute, and Romelu Lukaku sealed the result for the Belgians in the 105th minute.
Julian Green made things interesting in the 107th minute, pulling the USA back within a goal, but the Americans could not find the equalizer.
Belgium wasted little time testing the USA defense -- Divock Origi sliced through the back line in the first minute. Kevin de Bruyne created the chance, playing a quick one-two with Dries Mertens before hitting Origi on the run into the box. Tim Howard was up to the challenge though, blocking away the 19-year-old striker's shot.
Man of the Match
Man of the Match
The USA's first chance came in the 21st minute when a rare run of possession allowed Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey to work their way in towards the top of the Belgium box. Dempsey ultimately took the shot which was smothered by Thibaut Courtois.
De Bruyne made an absolute mess of a counter-attack chance in the 23rd minute after a turnover in the middle of the pitch by Graham Zusi. The Wolfsburg winger had a wide-open chance from 16 yards out but scoffed his shot, sending it wide. Less than three minutes later, DaMarcus Beasley made an excellent desperation save on a Mertens cross into the area that was meant for Origi.
The U.S. lost their starting right back in the 31st minute after Fabian Johnson appeared to strain a hamstring. DeAndre Yedlin replaced him. The introduction of the speedy 20-year-old helped the U.S. generate some chances down the right side, but Belgium's tough defense stood strong.
The Belgian pressure continued in the second half, but things looked much the same early on. Belgium were simply unable to make the final pass or get the final touch they needed to break down the U.S. defense.
Belgium missed on another golden opportunity in the 54th minute when Jan Vertonghen's low rolling ball across the face of goal somehow made it all the way through despite two Belgian players getting a crack at it. Two minutes later, Origi put a header off the top of the crossbar.
The U.S. got a rare chance to counter in the 57th minute, but Graham Zusi couldn't make solid contact with a loose ball in the box, and Belgium was able to get the ball cleared.
Tim Howard made several huge saves as the half progressed, but none bigger than in the 76th minute when his defenders allowed Kevin Mirallas to break through free against him. Mirallas went for the far post, but Howard was able to get a foot on the ball, deflecting it wide. Howard made another outstanding save in the 79th minute, denying Eden Hazard.
It's truly hard to put into words how good Howard was, but without him, the U.S. probably would have lost by multiple goals in regular time. Instead, the match went to extra time, thanks in large part to the American goalkeeper's heroic efforts
Less than three minutes into stoppage time, Romelu Lukaku used his size and speed to blow past Omar Gonzalez and work his way into the U.S. box. With defenders scrambling, he found De Bruyne following up his run and fed the midfielder with a pass. De Bruyne dribbled right to create space, before firing a low shot inside the far post, finally solving Howard and giving Belgium the lead.
Lukaku continued to make a nuisance of himself, forcing two more good saves from Howard in the first half of extra time. The U.S. had their chances though, including a golden opportunity for Bradley in the 94th minute that was wasted when he overpowered his shot wide.
Lukaku finally broke through in the 105th minute, receiving a pass from De Bruyne, moving ahead of Matt Besler, and burying a short-range shot past Howard to double the lead to 2-0.
But it wasn't over yet.
Julian Green made his first appearance in the World Cup and immediately made an impact in the 107th minute. Bradley found Green making a run and the young substitute hammered a volley past Courtois, pulling the USA back within a goal, 2-1.
Despite some late chances, including a free kick that forced a stunning save from Courtois in the 114th minute, the U.S. couldn't find the second goal they needed to force penalties.
Belgium moves on to face Argentina in the quarterfinals.
Belgium: Courtois, Vertonghen, Kompany, Van Buyten, Alderweireld, Witsel, Fellaini, Hazard (Chadli 111'), De Bruyne, Mertens (Mirallas 60'), Origi (Lukaku 91')
Goals: De Bruyne (93'), Lukaku (105')
United States: Howard, Beasley, Besler, Gonzalez, Johnson (Yedlin 31'), Cameron, Jones, Bedoya (Green 105'), Bradley, Zusi (Wondolowski 72'), Dempsey
Goals: Green (107')