United States goalkeeper Tim Howard said Everton team-mate Romelu Lukaku proved decisive as the Americans` fairytale World Cup run came to an end against Belgium in the last 16 here Tuesday.
Lukaku, on loan at Goodison Park last season from Chelsea, scored one goal and set up another as Belgium sealed a 2-1 win after a thrilling extra-time battle with the United States.
“They brought big Rom on and he was a handful, he ran at us, scored a goal, created chances for other guys,” said Howard. “Big Rom changed the game.”
Howard had kept the Americans in the contest throughout the first 90 minutes, pulling of a series of superb saves to prevent Belgium from converting their dominance into a comfortable victory.
And even after going 2-0 down in extra-time, the USA pulled a goal back through teenager Julian Green to set up a nervy finale which saw Clint Dempsey almost grab what would have been a sensational equaliser from a clever free-kick routine.
“It`s heartbreaking, I don`t think we could have given any more,” said Howard.
“We left it all out there. We got beaten by a really good team. They took their chances well. It`s heartache, it hurts.”
Asked about his goalkeeping heroics, Howard replied: “That`s my job, that`s what I`m signed up to do. It`s part of it in these big games.”
He acknowledged that United States had struggled to keep Belgium at bay for so long.
“The levy`s going to break at some point if you continue like that,” he said. “But hats off to Belgium they were fantastic.”