SALVADOR, Brazil (AP) — Kevin De Bruyne turned a heroic night for U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard into defeat on Tuesday with an extra-time goal and an assist that gave Belgium a 2-1 victory and a quarterfinal match against Lionel Messi and Argentina.
With three extra-time goals in a thrilling match, De Bruyne and substitute Romelu Lukaku gave Belgium a two-goal buffer before Julian Green closed the gap with 12 minutes to go.
“For my heart, please don’t give me too many games like this,” said Belgium coach Marc Wilmots, who must now get his team ready to face Argentina on Saturday.
Belgium’s unyielding attacks for 90 minutes only highlighted the great performance of the 35-year-old Howard, but the goalkeeper’s U.S. teammates finally wilted in the evening heat once extra time came.
Three minutes in, Lukaku found space on the right and passed into the center. At first, the ball was poked out before De Bruyne gained possession. But Belgium’s creative genius still had the energy for a sharp move and his low shot finally beat the yellow foot of Howard and settled inside the post.
Realizing he had finally been beaten, Howard fell back on the grass almost in slow-motion, arms and legs outstretched. The player of the match turned out to be on the losing side.
“The levee is going to break at some point,” said Howard, who plays for Everton in the Premier League.
In the 105th minute, Belgium appeared as if it had put the game away. De Bruyne launched Lukaku into open space on the left and the Everton striker beat his club teammate with a drive to the near post.
The Americans got late hope when Green pulled one back in the 107th minute with a volley on the turn that Thibaut Courtois could only touch before he saw it fly into his net.
With six minutes to go, the Americans almost got the equalizer. A free kick move set Clint Dempsey free in the center with only Courtois to beat. But the Belgium keeper proved he is one of the world’s best by spreading his giant body to smother the shot.
The reinvigorated Americans kept searching for a late goal right up until the final whistle. It never came.
ARGENTINA 1, SWITZERLAND 0
SAO PAULO (AP) — Just as another penalty shootout was looming at the World Cup, Angel Di Maria scored deep into extra time to ensure Argentina advanced to the Cup quarterfinals.
Lionel Messi made a surging run toward the Switzerland area in the 118th minute and laid the ball off to Di Maria on the right.
The winger struck a left-foot shot past diving goalkeeper Diego Benaglio, prompting the Argentine bench to jump out on the field to celebrate the goal.
Swiss substitute Blerim Dzemaili nearly equalized in the dying seconds but his header hit the post, and the rebound bounced off his knee and just wide of the goal.
The result at Sao Paulo’s Itaquerao Stadium continued Argentina’s record of scraping by with narrow wins at this World Cup.
Di Maria said the Argentines knew from the start that there was a good chance that the game would go into extra time, like three of the six previous second-round matches.
“We know that this could happen to us, but we gave our souls out there on the pitch, we fought with our lives for each ball and we ended up as the winners,” Di Maria said.
It was a dramatic ending to what had been a tight match, with Argentina struggling to break through Switzerland’s disciplined defense.
Granit Xhaka and Josip Drmic had clear chances to put Switzerland ahead in the first half, but after that the Swiss mostly focused on repelling Argentina’s attacks and closing down space for Messi.
“We made life very tough on them,” Switzerland coach Ottmar Hitzfeld said. “They managed to keep their cool. It shows Argentina has a good team.”
Hitzfeld, whose brother died at age 81 on Monday, said that the match was his last as a football coach.
“It was a great honor working for Switzerland. I’m therefore proud to say goodbye to Switzerland with heart full of emotions,” Hitzfeld said.