Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku broke the hearts of millions of Americans after scoring the two goals in extra time that sunk the United States 2-1 in the round of 16 at the 2014 World Cup.
For almost the entirety of the match, the U.S. deployed a rearguard to try to repel the Belgians' best attacks. Since they couldn't get the ball into the final third and put pressure on the Belgium back line, Tim Howard was forced to make save after save after save just to keep the United States in it.
The fact that the match went to extra time at all was a minor miracle due to Howard's performance, as ESPN's Paul Carr pointed out:
De Bruyne had been one of Belgium's best players, so it was no surprise that he broke the deadlock in the 93rd minute:
Well, can't pretend that hadn't been coming. Superb composure from Kevin De Bruyne though.— Tom Williams (@tomwfootball) July 1, 2014
You have to applaud his composure on the ball. He didn't rush the shot, instead waiting for his opportunity and sending the ball to the far post, which was his only option. You can see the goal below, per RealGM Soccer:
Cristian Nyari of the Bundesliga Fanatic wasn't surprised at all that the Wolfsburg midfielder proved more pivotal on the pitch than his much-lauded teammate, Eden Hazard:
Said a year ago that De Bruyne, not Hazard, will be the key player for #BEL at this World Cup. Terrific today.— Cristian Nyari (@Cnyari) July 1, 2014
Just 12 minutes later, Lukaku doubled Belgium's lead with a clinical finish on the counter-attack, per World Soccer Talk:
The Chelsea striker replaced Divock Origi at the end of regulation, and yet, he still had the most shots on goal of any Belgian player, per OptaJohan:
4 - Romelu Lukaku (30 minutes played) had 4 shots on target (out of 4, 1 goal) vs #USA, the most of all Belgian players in the match. Sharp.— OptaJohan (@OptaJohan) July 1, 2014
ESPN's Chris Fowler highlighted the difference between Belgium's bench and the United States' bench. Where Jurgen Klinsmann calls on Chris Wondolowski, Marc Wilmots calls on Lukaku, somebody who has terrorized Premier League defenders for the last two years:
When their fresh legs for extra time get $6M+ per year.. It illustrates the talent of a young Belgian team. Lukaku.. Damn.— Chris Fowler (@cbfowler) July 1, 2014
De Bruyne and Lukaku were the fifth and sixth different scorers in the World Cup for Belgium, per Squawka:
All 6 of Belgium's goals at the World Cup have been scored by different players (Fellaini, Mertens, Origi, Vertonghen, De Bruyne, Lukaku).— Squawka Football (@Squawka) July 1, 2014
If you want to look for the difference between the U.S. and Belgium, look no further than those two. Players of that caliber aren't coming through the American youth systems, and until they do, the United States will continue staring at a glass ceiling at the international level.
The Belgians move on to the quarterfinals, where they face Argentina in what should be an intriguing tactical battle. Neither team has played up to its attacking potential, but both have demonstrated an ability to win ugly.