By Sportswriter Pan Yi
SALVADOR, Brazil, July 1 (Xinhua) -- Belgium, the winners of Group H with three wins, roared into World Cup quarterfinals, pulling out to win 2-1 over the United States, the runners-up of Group G, after the extra time of their round of 16 duel here on Tuesday.
"For my heart, please don't give me too many games like this," said Belgium coach Marc Wilmots, who must lead his team to face Argentina in the quarterfinal on Saturday.
With three extra-time goals in a thrilling match, midfielder De Bruyne and substitute forward Romelu Lukaku gave Belgium a 2-0 lead before Julian Green closed the gap with 12 minutes to go.
After the breathtaking regular time, De Bruyne opened the scoring just three minutes into the extra time. Lukaku burst down the Belgian right with his first major contribution and passed inside. De Bruyne took the ball past several U.S. challengers and squeezed the shot inside keeper Tim Howard's right-hand post.
In the 105th minute, Lukaku received the ball inside the penalty area from De Bruyne and the Chelsea forward hit a powerful effort past Howard.
Two minutes later, Green, a 19-year-old substitute who had just been on the pitch for a matter of moments, scored in the box where the ball was lofted. Green watched the ball over his shoulder and volleyed towards goal. Belgian keeper Thibaut Courtois got a hand on it but couldn't keep it out.
The Americans also created two great scoring chances in the last minutes, but one was denied by Courtois at the goal mouth and the other was squandered by the bad touch of the ball.
U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said that only luck didn't go the American's way on Tuesday.
"At the end you need a little bit of luck that is going your way and today we didn't have that," Klinsmann said. "But when you look at the four games we played we did a very very good job."
Despite conceding two goals, Howard, who played brilliantly with countless great saves, was the most eye-catching man of the match. Howard fell back on the grass almost in slow-motion, arms and legs outstretched and eyes staring up into the darkness after De Bruyne scored. The Man of the Match turned out to be on the losing side.
"It's heartbreaking," Howard said. "I don't think we could have given any more."
Although there was no goal in the regular time, both sides played fast-pace attacking football.
Belgium made six changes from their final group game against South Korea, with Alderweireld, Kompany, Witsel, De Bruyne, Hazard and Origi coming in. The United States made two changes from their match against Germany, with Bedoya and Cameron replacing Davis and Beckerman.
Only two minutes into the game, De Bruyne broke through the U.S. midfield and hit towards goal. But it was blocked and went behind for a corner.
In the 21st minute, U.S. midfielder Michael Bradley burst through the Belgian midfield and got the ball stuck under his feet. He poked it towards forward Clint Dempsey who turned the ball goalwards. But Belgium keeper Thibaut Courtois saved it.
After two minutes, Belgium broke with a swift counter-attack and defender Jan Vertonghen found De Bruyne on the left. The Wolfsburg winger cut inside onto his favored right foot but scuffed it wide of the right-hand post.
In the 26th minute, Vertonghen broke free of the U.S. defense and crossed in to the six yard box. U.S. defender DaMarcus Beasley was there and made a dramatic clearance from in front of his own goal with Fellaini ready to pounce.
Three minutes later, Belgium ace Eden Hazard got the ball out of his feet around 25 yards from goal and unleased a low drive. It was an easy picking for Howard.
One of the best scoring chances came in the 55th minute when Vertonghen broke down the left and fizzed a ball across the U.S six yard box. It missed De Bruyne. U.S. defender Besler swang and didn't get contact which deceived Origi who was flying in at the far post.
After one minute, Alderweireld cut inside on the Belgian right and Origi headed a powerful effort towards goal. It clipped the bar on its way over.
In the 58th minute, Beasley was found in space on the U.S. left and his deflected cross bounced awkwardly for the Belgian defense inside their own penalty area. Zusi drove towards goal but it was cleared away after a nervous few moments for the Red Devils' defenders.
In the 69th minute, Alderweireld played the ball inside to Witsel and the Zenit man hit a low drive towards goal, but it zipped just past Howard's right-hand post.
The 71st minute witnessed a great save when Mirallas danced through the U.S. defenders. The ball broke to Origi, whose side-footed effort was kept out by Howard.
Five minutes later, Hazard tracked back to hunt down Yedlin and played forward to Origi who turned wonderfully to create space between the U.S. midfield and defense. He played Mirallas in and he hit a left-footed effort at goal, but the Everton forward is denied by the legs of his club teammate.
The last 10 minutes saw Belgians lay siege to the American box. But Howard played like a hero to deny all the Belgian attempts and forced the game into the extra time.