Belgium 2 USA 1: Three talking points as Chelsea star strikes late
Belgium 2 USA 1: Three talking points as Kevin de Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku break American hearts
Tim Howard is either magnificent, or he leaves you pulling your hair out in sheer annoyance after he’s just sat down while the ball rolls past him – again. Against Belgium, he gave one of the greatest-ever goalkeeping performances the World Cup has seen. His one-on-one saves were something else, and he was all that stood between Belgium and a comfortable passage. Howard is in his mid-30s now, and his star is on the wane, but he is still one of the fittest and highest-performing goalkeepers in the Premier League and as much as he is prone to one mistake in 20 games, he still instills more confidence in Everton’s defenders than any of his many deputies ever have – even the FA Cup winner Joel Robles. Whether the Toffees see this version of Howard all season is another matter. In fact, expect his World Cup heroics to mean more of a rest ahead of a big season for the Blues.
Strength in depth AND peaking
Belgium deserved that win, no matter how much everyone was rooting for USA. The Red Devils controlled the tempo of the game, as well as creating more than 40 chances. Had Howard not had his spinach and turned into a superhero, Marouane Fellaini and co would have been able to rest players ahead of a potentially outstanding clash with Argentina. The Manchester United man was a much-ridiculed figure last season, despite being a proven Premier League player. With his hair and height, the former Everton man is an easy figure to hate – added to the fact he was David Moyes’s first marquee signing for United. But, he was excellent as he tired, front sweeping as USA tried to dart in and around (copyright Andy Townsend) Belgium’s midfield and back four. But it’s the ability to introduce the likes Of Kevin Mirallas, Romelu Lukaku and Chad Lee (yes I know) to see off teams who are tired that stands Belgium in good stead. As a side point, Belgium’s match-up with Argentina makes us think of 1986 and that picture. In Lionel Messi’s bid to recreate that tournament, will we see six Belgians and the little one?
Klinsmann has done well
That sounds patronising. Not meant to be, but it sounds it. Be honest, did anyone expect Jurgen Klinsmann to be a good boss? He was a laid back player – he drove a VW Beetle, for Alan Sugar’s sake – but with a reputation for always indulging in fair play. He seemed to enjoy a nice life out of football, but he’s managed to do something that other US coaches could dream about – unite a nation behind their football team. However, look at the pictures of Soldier Field or anywhere else there was a public viewing. Look at Arnie, look at Tom Hanks and Samuel L Jackson, who hoped there were no mutha f***ing snakes in Belgium’s starting XI. More importantly, Klinsmann got a very average, while technically competent, side playing a high standard of disciplined, tactical football. They have young players who enjoy playing for their country and are more often than not, guaranteed qualification. He says he is committed to USA’s long-term future, but if a European club offers him a job, it would be interesting to see how much of a pull Southern California really is.