Created on 02-07-2014 at 08:45 AM
Bayern stars were in the thick of the action in a thrilling final round of last sixteen ties at the World Cup in Brazil on Tuesday. Julian Green came off the bench and crowned his debut on the global stage with his first goal for USA but it was not enough to prevent Daniel van Buyten and Belgium progressing to the last eight. Earlier in the day there was heartbreak for Xherdan Shaqiri and Switzerland as Argentina conjured up a last-gasp winner in Ottmar Hitzfeld's final match as a coach.
The highly-fancied Belgians dominated against USA but needed extra time before booking their place in the quarter-finals by a 2–1 scoreline. The 51,277 crowd in Salvador saw Van Buyten play the full 120 minutes for the Red Devils, who created chance after chance in normal time but were foiled by the heroics of US keeper Tim Howard. Wolfsburg's Kevin De Bruyne finally broke the deadlock after 93 minutes, and then laid on Romelu Lukaku’s game-winning second in the 105th minute.
But the passionate and physically charged North Americans were still not out of it and FCB youngster Green pulled one back with a smart run and volley in the 107th minute, a stunning debut on the world stage for the FCB reserve. The tables were turned now as Jürgen Klinsmann's team battered away at the Belgian goal, but Marc Wilmots’ men held out to make the last eight at the World Cup for the first time in 28 years. “It would have been very bitter if we hadn't gone through. We had much the better chances," seasoned warhorse Van Buyten commented.
Shaq and Co downed at the death
The Belgians now meet Argentina on Saturday after the South Americans broke Swiss hearts earlier in the day. Hitzfeld's team kept the two-time world champions at bay for the whole of normal time and almost the entire extra 30 minutes but Angel di Maria side-footed home after 117 minutes to earn the favourites a narrow and slightly fortunate victory.
The 63,255 crowd in São Paulo saw the Europeans stifle Lionel Messi and Co for long spells. Shaqiri turned in an excellent display, especially in the first half when he eclipsed Messi in the playmaking role. The disciplined Swiss defence allowed their illustrious opponents very few chances and Argentina looked short of ideas.
Nor was it one-way traffic, as Bundesliga stars Granit Xhaka (28) and Josip Drmic (39) squandered good chances for the Europeans. La Albiceleste upped their game after the break but Rojo (59), Gonzalo Higuain (62) and Messi (67, 75, 88) were unable to beat the alert Diego Benaglio in the Swiss goal. The game seemed set for penalties until Messi initiated a slick move allowing di Maria to fire across Benaglio with just three minutes of extra time left. It was still not over but Blerim Dzemaili could not convert a gilt-edged chance to equalise when he headed against the post in time added on at the end.