Lukaku inspires Belgium into Quarter-Finals

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AS IT HAPPENED

Blegium started the match like a house on fire as Divock Origi tested goalkeeper Tim Howard after just 40 seconds, but the US-shotstopper proved up to the task as he denied the striker’s early effort.
 
The Belgians continued to apply pressure on the Americans and created a number of chances as they showed confidence and discipline in attack, however, Howard was the difference early on as he held USA in the game with a number of fine saves.
 
USA finally went on the attack in the 21st minute as Thibaut Courtois was called into action after Michael Bradley found some space outside the Belgian area and unleashed a good shot forcing the young goalkeeper to collect and hold onto the ball.
 
The action did not stop there as both teams continued to push forward in search of an opener, but neither side was able to break down the defences or come up with a special moment to break the deadlock ahead of the half-time whistle.
 
The second half started off much like the first with Belgium first out the blocks, testing Howard early on again through a floating header from Dries Mertens which the US goalkeeper had to knock over his cross-bar for a corner.
 
Belgium continued again with the momentum, creating a number of chances which forced Howard into some good saves and kept USA in the game for the most part. The pressure intensified and Howard was under siege as Belgium flooded the American area with shots and crosses.
 
Despite plenty of chances, the match ended goalless after 90 minutes, and the match was forced into extra-time thanks to the Everton goalkeeper who managed to block everything Belgium through at him.
 
A change at the start of extra-time, saw Romelu Lukaku replacing Origi, and the Everton striker’s impact was immediately felt on the match as he made a superb run into the box and provided for Kevin De Bruyne to power a shot beyond Howard.
 
Lakaku and Hazard combination looked menacing and a couple of opportunities came from it, but still Howard refused to waver. However, Lukaku doubled The Red Devils’ lead on the stroke of half-time in extra-time, as he slotted neatly past Howard at the near-post.
 
USA came out a revitalised side in the second half of extra-time, and 19-year-old substitute Julian Green pulled one back for his side with a sublime finish as he volleyed beyond Courtois’ reach with his right foot.  
 
The Americans had a few great opportunities late on as they committed numbers and piled pressure on the Belgian defence, but they were unfortunate not to find the target on a number of occasions.
 
Dark Horses Belgium managed to hold on tight, and walked away victors after 120 minutes of football, setting up a Quarter-Final showdown with a Messi-inspired Argentina - sure to be a mouth-watering clash.

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