Earlier today, the Belgium national football team eliminated the United States in extra time by a score of 2-1. The game generated nerves, excitement, and frustration, and sometimes all three of those emotions occurred simultaneously. For most of the game, the Red Devils of Belgium controlled possession and doubled the US team’s shots on goal. Despite this fact, the game was scoreless at the half and at the end of regulation. From my perspective, the player of the game goes to goalkeeper Tim Howard, who played the game of his life. He made sixteen saves in a World Cup match, which set a record. Because Howard shined for the US team, it begged the question about the rest of his teammates.
At times, the US team appeared to get behind the Belgian defense for a few chances here and there; however, at no point did the Stars and Stripes ever take control of the game. The US team made several excellent defensive plays to keep the game scoreless going into the overtime periods. Truth be told, it was really a matter of time before Belgium notched a goal. Sure enough, the Red Devils scored not even five minutes into the first extra time period. They scored the clincher near the end of the first fifteen minutes. Julian Green came on as a substitute for the US, and he scored a pretty goal in the second fifteen minute period to make things a little more interesting. In the end, it was not enough for the US as the Belgians advance to the quarterfinals against Argentina and Lionel Messi.
I tip my hat to the Belgians, who keep finding a way to win in the World Cup. None of their games is pretty or even impressive. They remind me a little bit of Spain, who won the World Cup in 2010; however, in no way am I suggesting that the Belgians are at the level of the Spaniards. I do think the Argentinians will have their hands full against the Red Devils. Messi is better than any one player for Belgium, but I think the latter is a more complete squad. We will see what happens in the quarterfinal matches. Lastly, I give a hearty congratulations to the US national team. They made it out of a difficult group and into the round of 16. I think this particular squad has accomplished quite a bit. They can build on this performance. These are exciting times for US soccer.