The battle for the Hyundai Young Player Award is intensifying with every game. Several of the rising stars in the running for the prestigious prize turned in excellent displays in the second of Tuesday’s two Round of 16 ties, proving that their coaches were absolutely right to take them to the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™.
Though Romelu Lukaku and Julian Green stole the limelight with their well-taken goals as Belgium beat USA 2-1, Red Devils front man Divock Origi and Stars and Stripes winger DeAndre Yedlin were also on song in one of the matches of the tournament so far.
The only member of that esteemed quartet to start the game was Origi, who was doing so for the first time at the tournament, having come on as a substitute in each of Belgium’s three Group Stage matches. The muscular 19-year-old striker posed more danger than most to the American defence but was thwarted time and again by the inspired Tim Howard, who kept the Belgians at bay almost single-handedly with some outstanding saves.
Origi came off at the end of normal time, with the score locked at 0-0, to be replaced by Lukaku, who finally made his presence felt in what had been a frustrating tournament for him until tonight. With his side having edged into the lead, Lukaku latched on to a measured pass from Kevin de Bruyne and reprised his convincing form for Everton by lashing in what turned out to be the eventual match winner.
Overrun at times by their opponents, USA got back into the game when Jurgen Klinsmann brought on 19-year-old forward Julian Green for his first appearance of the competition. The teenager made an instant impact, volleying home with his first touch to set up a heart-stopping finale.
The Americans’ frantic search for an equaliser proved fruitless, though both Green and Yedlin, who came on after 32 minutes and turned in an outstanding display, can be rightly proud of their efforts. While the US duo head home, Lukaku, Origi and team-mate Adnan Januzaj have another opportunity to showcase their considerable talents when Belgium take on Argentina in the quarter-finals.
Brazil 2014 now breaks off for a well-earned two-day break, giving our remaining candidates a chance to rest and recuperate. The action resumes on Friday, when the likes of Paul Pogba, Raphael Varane, Memphis Depay, Juan Quintero and today’s heroes will be raring to go again and remind the world of their undeniable talents.