Tim Howard was lauded for his performance against Belgium, as USA crashed out of the 2014 World Cup in the round of 16 tie, but the praise has been a little over the top.
Jurgen Klinsmann’s side put in a display full of desire, hard work, organisation and some exhilarating attacking desire. This willingness to get men forward and into the Belgium box meant they were open when caught on the break and Howard was forced into action numerous times.
More specifically, the Everton number one made a total of 15 saves during the match, which is a record for a single World Cup match since records began in 1966. It was not enough to save the Americans, however, as extra-time goals from Kevin de Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku gave Marc Wilmots’ side the win, though there was last-minute drama when youngster Julian Green halved the deficit.
USA could not muster another opportunity before the final whistle, but second half substitute Chris Wondolowski could have sealed a famous win in normal time injury time, but he shinned a simple close range chance high and wide.
Although there is nothing wrong with praising Howard for making those saves, it is wrong to talk about his performance as if it was legendary. Of the 15 saves, ten were directly at him and perhaps two were better than average, but all of them were saves you would expect him to make.
Belgium’s goals were good finishes, so he is not to blame for them, but the theme of the match was a series of missed chances. The Europeans should have had the game wrapped up before it even got close to extra-time, such were the frequency of the good opportunities.
Perhaps it is the need for heroic narratives in our blockbuster age of football as a worldwide entertainment business, but the haste with which certain performances are deemed extraordinary is unnecessary.
The same can be said of Germany’s hard-fought, and fortunate, extra-time victory over an inspired Algeria. The African side should have gone in at half-time in the lead due to all the chances they were making, but Joachim Löw’s men slowly took control of the match and had various opportunities to win it.
Raïs M’Bohli’s performance in the Algerian goal was hailed as remarkable but it was a similar situation to that of Belgium – Germany’s finishing was atrocious. Mario Götze, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Thomas Müller all should have scored when given some very straightforward chances, with the latter erring more than once.
A save from a Philipp Lahm shot heading for the top corner was very good, so it was a strong performance overall but we should not be trying to get carried away.
There is entertainment already
What is so puzzling is that World Cup 2014 in Brazil has been so sensationally entertaining there has been no need to concoct narratives. It has probably been the most entertaining competition for over a decade and perhaps if there weren’t so many goals, we would be lamenting the poor finishing we have seen.
Howard did his job reasonably well, but he did nothing extraordinary – if a top class striker was presented with those chances we would not be talking about the drama of extra-time, we’d be talking about a naïvely gung-ho USA team getting easily beaten after being picked apart on the break.
Perhaps it is a good thing because we want drama, tension and excitement from out World Cups – just don’t get carried away, ok?
What do you think? Was Tim Howard's display against Belgium really that amazing? Leave a comment to let us know and join in the debate...