Belgium down the US in extra time to make last eight
Belgium coach Wilmots rewarded for his introduction of Lukaku, who sets up de Bruyne's opener and scores the second
ROUND OF 16
(Kevin de Bruyne 93, Romelu Lukaku 105)
UNITED STATES 1
(Julian Green 107)
The dark horses tiptoed into the light this morning (Singapore time).
Belgium held on in another heart-stopping, insanely epic encounter at a World Cup that simply refuses to allow any fixtures to drift into mediocrity.
Their relentless, indefatigable American opponents threatened an upset until the dying seconds, but there were no Belgian stars and gripes in the end.
No goals in 90 minutes were swiftly followed by three in extra time, as the Belgians held their collective breath and pinched a 2-1 victory.
They didn't qualify for the quarter-finals. They escaped the American dogs of war, their jaws still snapping at Belgian heels until the referee's whistle finally put everyone out of their misery.
World Cup matches need health warnings. Pregnant spectators and anyone with a heart condition surely can't take much more of this. Tournament tickets must come with defibrillators if this continues.
Extra time simply exploded with Marc Wilmots' sly introduction of Romelu Lukaku. The move paid off handsomely, with the petulant striker playing perfect substitute to set up the first for Kevin de Bruyne and smash home the second to set up a quarter-final against Argentina.
Belgians celebrated into the early hours this morning, but the Argentines were understandably apprehensive.
Belgium are finally living up to their billing. After three tepid group games, the Red Devils are finding their feet in Brazil. They're starting to dance.
The United States were initially overwhelmed in central midfield, as the livelier Belgians broke through for fun.
Only wayward finishing and Tim Howard's reliability denied Wilmots' men a deserving lead, as they enjoyed their finest first half of the tournament.
De Bruyne was particularly effective, slotting in behind the young Divock Origi and the pair combined well.
Juergen Klinsmann made the surprising decision to omit his midfield enforcer Kyle Beckerman in favour of Geoff Cameron. It's not often that a Stoke City centre back is considered a midfield masterstroke against the World Cup dark horses and Cameron's early booking hinted at his discomfort.
Belgium dominated possession and attacked in platoons in the second half, with Toby Aiderweireld and Jan Vertonghen leading the relentless charge.
Returning from injury, Vincent Kompany enjoyed a lazy Salvador afternoon, as the surprisingly cautious Americans rarely troubled the unruffled Belgian defence.
Klinsmann's line-up perhaps paid too much respect to his opponents.
The names on the backs of Belgian jerseys are undoubtedly more familiar, but their form in Brazil had previously been erratic. Of all the Round-of-16 fixtures, this one had the whiff of an upset about it here.
In a chicken-and-egg conundrum, Belgium pressed as the Americans retreated. It was difficult to see which came first, but Klinsmann had clearly had enough after 70 minutes.
He yanked Graham Zusi off after the playmaker made one mistake and introduced striker Chris Wondolowski.
Suddenly, the game became a ragged, messy street scrap and was all the better for it.
Possession was out, penetration was in and the recklessness roused the crowd. Everyone present inside the Salvador stadium finally grasped the magnitude of the occasion. Footballers and fans fed off each other. Formations rapidly unraveled, as both sides sought to settle the contest in normal time.
Belgium hounded the American penalty box relentlessly. On average, they had a shot every three minutes. They peppered the goal, forcing Howard to make more saves in a single game than any other goalkeeper at the World Cup.
Most were routine. A couple kept the United States in the tournament.
There hadn't been an American goalkeeper this ridiculously consistent since Sylvester Stallone denied those evil Nazis in the movie Escape to Victory.
But surrender goes against the American psyche. Klinsmann has successfully married his German efficiency and mental fortitude with California's sunny positivity. His players don't know when they're done.
They remained willing, but lacked Lukaku's energy. They were exhausted. The substitute was fresh and burdened only by the chip on his shoulder after being dropped by Wilmots.
He certainly proved his point. He set up de Bruyne and scored the second, leaving battered defenders trailing on both occasions.
But the contest flickered again when Klinsmann threw the dice a final time, sending on unknown kid Julian Green to somehow, inexplicably, volley in one of the goals of the tournament.
It was that kind of game. It's been that kind of tournament.
And the Belgians have finally joined a party that promises to never end.
Tim Howard made more saves in a single game (15) than any other player in World Cup history (1966- 2014).