The U.S. World Cup dream ended on Tuesday night when Belgium won 2-1 in extra-time at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador, Brazil.
The game went to overtime after regulation ended with the score 0-0. Belgium took the lead early in the third minute of extra time, as midfielder Kevin De Bruyne scored the first goal. Romelu Lukaku scored the second goal for Belgium at 105 minutes.
“Everybody said we had no football,” Belgium coach Marc Wilmots said. “I think we saw a lot of football from Belgium tonight, so there shouldn’t be any more worries from the media. We passed the first round and now we’ve passed the round of 16.”
Julian Green pulled a goal back for the Americans in the 107th minute, then with one minute left, DeAndre Yedlin makes one final run down the right side but cannot reel in a long pass.
“After 120 minutes we gave everything to the fans and the crowd,” U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. “It was a real drama, a real thriller. We had enough opportunities to equalize at the end or even put it away earlier. But I have to be complimentary to Belgium for moving on to the quarterfinals.”
The only time the U.S. team won a round of 16 match was in 2002. That year marked the furthest the U.S. team had advanced since it made the semifinals in 1930.
“It’s heartbreaking,” U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard told ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap after the final whistle ended the 120-minute encounter. “I don’t think we could have given any more. What a great game of football.”
Thirty-five year-old Howard delivered one of the best performances of the tournament in a losing effort with sensational 16-saves during the game, which were the most in a World Cup game in over 50 years.
“The way Tim played tonight was just phenomenal, was just outstanding,” Klinsmann said. “He kept us in the game a long time. If we kept going forward we would get chances, too, but he had an absolutely amazing match tonight.”
Thousands of fans followed the match, even in the White House, President Barack Obama watched on, while vice-president Joe Biden visited the US dressing room at the Arena Fonte Nova to wish the team luck. Biden called out Howard for special praise, writing on the social site that Howard was “the most valuable player in the World Cup.”
Film star Tom Hanks got caught up in the emotion of the occasion claiming that “Tim Howard remains a god” on his own personal Twitter feed.
The ultimate praise, however, came from Belgium’s Vincent Kompany, the captain from Tuesday’s opposing team, who simply tweeted: “two words…Tim Howard #respect.”
“It was a game where we went to the extreme,” Klinsmann said. “We are very, very proud of our team and every player stepping on the field. They gave everything they had. They made their country proud with their performance in this World Cup.”
Belgium will face Argentina in the quarterfinals on Saturday, July 5 at Nacional in Brasilia.