Goalkeeper Tim Howard of the U.S. saves a shot during their 2014 World Cup round of 16 game against Belgium at the Fonte Nova arena in Salvador July 1, 2014. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich (BRAZIL - Tags: SOCCER SPORT WORLD CUP)Goalkeeper Tim Howard of the U.S. saves a shot during their 2014 World Cup round of 16 game against Belgium at the Fonte Nova arena in Salvador
For 90 minutes, Tim Howard held off a constant attack from Belgium. He had more saves in that span than he did in all three goup-stage matches combined and by the time the match finally ended 2-1 in Belgium's favor after extra time, he had 16 saves. The most in a World Cup match since that stat was first tracked 50 years ago.
Romelu Lukaku came off the bench for Belgium at the start of extra time and, eager to prove that he should have started the match, ran over an exhausted Matt Besler before setting up Kevin De Bruyne for the match's first goal in the 93rd minute. Lukaku, who played with Howard at Everton last season, then scored a goal of his own in the 105th minute to put Belgium up 2-0 and it seemed like it was all over.
But then Jurgen Klinsmann brought in 19-year-old Julian Green, who scored his first U.S. goal in the 107th minute. The U.S. had several golden chances to then equalize, but Belgium just held on long enough to preserve the lead and advance to the quarterfinals.
Howard had 39 shots fly at him in this match and was the sole reason it didn't end 5-0 in regular time. Only six teams have more saves in the tournament than Howard had in this one match. Several goalkeepers have won much deserved praise in this World Cup — Mexico's Memo Ochoa, Costa Rica's Keylor Navas and others — but Tim Howard's performance in this match was in another dimension.
For an hour and half Tim Howard held back a flood all by himself. He will undoubtedly be disappointed with the loss, but his performance will be remembered much longer than the result.
Belgium captain Vincent Kompany said it best after the match...