Three lessons from Belgium 2-1 USA

Romelu Lukaku put on an inspiring performance as an extra-time substitute as the Red Devils edged the resilient Americans in the last 16. Here are three takeaways from a thriller!
By Afifah Ariffin |  Goal Singapore

Belgium will progress on to meet Argentina in the quarter-finals of the World Cup, after beating out USA 2-1 in extra-time in the final match of the Round of 16 on Wednesday morning.

Ninety minutes couldn't separate the two sides, but Kevin de Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku scored to give the Red Devils a two-goal lead in the first half of extra time. Youngster Julian Green pulled one back minutes after his introduction, but his superb goal wasn't enough to bring his side through.

It was an absolute thriller though as the Americans simply refused to give up, with goalkeeper Tim Howard standing big against the Europeans. What a way to round off the last of the knockout ties!

Inspiring Substitutes

Substitutions from both sides brought in a breath of fresh air into the game, as the extra-time thriller kept everyone at the edge of their seats. The 90 minutes of normal play saw a spectacle of chances with a total of 56 shots on goal, with the majority coming in from the Belgians.

Romelu Lukaku stole the show after making a sensational impact to turn it in Belgium’s favour. The Chelsea forward, whose future at Stamford Bridge is still in doubt, came off the bench to replace Divock Origi in extra-time. His introduction proved to be a game-changer as he created the first goal for Kevin De Bruyne and scored the second, sealing his team a quarter-final date with Argentina.

Likewise, 19-year-old Julian Green scored for his side barely minutes after entering the pitch, smashing in a cross from teammate Michael Bradley with his first touch to give USA hope. Green’s goal made him the youngest goal-scorer in the tournament and the youngest-ever to score for the USA in any World Cup campaign.

Hazard not good enough

Plenty was expected of Eden Hazard as he donned his country’s colours in Brazil. The youngster, who had an outstanding season with Chelsea that saw him crowned the Premier League's Young Player of the Year, was tipped to shine on the sport's grandest stage. However, he has yet to prove himself.

Hazard had declared himself ready to become one of the World Cup greats, after drawing inspirations from the likes of Lionel Messi and Neymar. But the attacker, who has yet to score a goal, needs to do more to match up with the other rising stars of the tournament such as Paul Pogba and James Rodriguez.

The 23-year-old delivered match-winning assists in his two starts in Group H and should have gone on to do better against the USA initially, but did not have the desired impact. Coach Marc Wilmots will need Hazard to step up his game in time when they take on juggernauts Argentina in the quarter-finals.

Quarter-finals roundup

The knockout stages has finally wrapped up as we take a three-day breather, enough to gear ourselves up for the next stage of the tournament. With all eight group winners progressing to the quarter-finals, the fixtures will definitely keep supporters on the edge of their seats.

Hosts Brazil will usher in the line of matches yet again, as they open the quarter-finals playing Colombia. It will be a tantalising showdown between Neymar and James Rodriguez as the South American outfits battle to make the semis.

European teams still dominate the tournament, with four teams still in the running. France will take on Germany in a highly-anticipated clash that will see the powerhouses fight to the end.

Netherlands will play Costa Rica, the only remaining side not belonging to either continent. They have had a stellar performance at the World Cup so far and like Belgium, La Sele are the underdogs going into the last eight, but don’t be quick to write them off.

Lastly, Argentina will square off against Belgium, who need to regroup their defence if they want to contain Lionel Messi and co. But til then, have a good break, everybody!