Belgians Bid U.S. Adieu In World Cup's Knockout Round

In its first game in the knockout round, the U.S. soccer team played Belgium. The Americans defied expectations by escaping group play, but they've now been eliminated with a loss against Belgium. For more, Melissa Block turns to George Quraishi of Howler Magazine.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

- Finally, this hour, to the World Cup and the results of today's match between the United States and Belgium. The U.S. is going home. They were eliminated by Belgium 2-1 with all three of those goals coming in the 30 heart-stopping minutes of extra-time. Here's U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann after the game.

- (SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JURGEN KLINSMANN: - Obviously it's a bummer for us ending on the losing side after a game of 120 minutes that I think gave everything to the fans, to the crowd, a real drama, a thriller. You know, we had enough possibilities to equalize that game at the end or even to put it away earlier. We complement to Belgium and congratulations to them to move on to the quarter-finals. It was a game that, you know, it just went to the extreme.

BLOCK: - Joining me from Salvador, Brazil to talk about the match is NPR's Russell Lewis. Russell, you were in the stands for this match. I can only imagine how electric the atmosphere must have been.

RUSSELL LEWIS, BYLINE: - Oh, absolutely. You really can't imagine what it was like. It was so loud. And really, those last 30 minutes of overtime, that's when the game really got going. Of course that's when the goals were score. And it was just such an amazing atmosphere. Just going backwards and forwards, counterattacks and attacks, goals, counter-goals - it was just an - amazing.

BLOCK: - Well, let's talk about those goals. Belgium scored once in extra-time and then scored again so it was 2-0. And low and behold, who scores the one goal for the United States.

LEWIS: - Yeah, it's 19-year-old Julian Green. He's the youngest American ever to play in the World Cup for the United States and just a beautiful goal. Of course he was a late substitute in the game. And it was just, you know, it was just an amazing goal. The crowd went wild, thinking of course that Belgium was a shoe-in now at 2-0. And when Julian Green just punched that ball into the goal, I mean, the stands just went nuts and the Americans in particular just went wild. And the Belgians just looked at themselves in stunned disbelieve by saying, oh, my gosh, this game is not over yet.

BLOCK: - And there were a lot of opportunities of the United States to equalize, send this into a shootout - didn't happen. Worth saying about Julian Green - he is one of the dual-national German-Americans that the German coach Jurgen Klinsmann has recruited and put on the roster. A lot of people thought he made a mistake, but look at that.

LEWIS: - Yeah, absolutely. Well, a lot of people have questioned Jurgen Klinsmann on some levels, but, you know, he got the United States into the round of 16 for the second now - second straight World Cup. You know, hard to question someone that when you're one of the last 16 teams standing and, you know, despite the U.S.'s schedule, folks seem to think that, you know, they did pretty well for how it happened tonight.

BLOCK: - Yeah, we should say that if you watched the 90 minutes of regulation time - 90-plus - it would've appeared, by the level of play, that Belgium should have won the game. I mean, Tim Howard, the U.S. goalkeeper was unbelievable.

LEWIS: - Absolutely, let's talk about Tim in just a second. Clearly, Belgium had so many more chances during regulation to score, just time after time after time after time. But look at Tim Howard - what an amazing job he did in goal tonight. What an amazing goalkeeper. He saved the ball 16 times, that is the most by a goalkeeper in the World Cup since 1966, 1966. That's such a great job that he did tonight. Of course he let two balls get by him, which is tough, but, you know, the score could have easily been much higher. He was just amazing in goal tonight.

BLOCK: - Well, looking ahead now to the quarter-finals, we've got four Latin American teams - Brazil, Colombia, tiny Costa Rica and Argentina - and four European teams - France, Germany, the Netherlands and now Belgium.

LEWIS: - Absolutely. And it sets up for such a great series of quarter-finals, of course Brazil taking on Colombia. You've got France taking on Germany, the Netherlands and Costa Rica, and of course this Belgium team going after Argentina. Many people think that Argentina may make it to the finals and perhaps it may make it into the finals against Brazil. We'll just have to see of course, but what an amazing series of matches coming here in the next couple of days in Brazil.

BLOCK: - And you'll be there to cover it for us. NPR's Russell Lewis talking with us from Salvador, Brazil. The score again of today's match - Belgium 2 - U.S. 1. Russell, thanks so much.

LEWIS: - You're welcome.

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