2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™

2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™

12 June - 13 July

2014 FIFA World Cup™

Heroic Howard earns global praise

Tim Howard of the United States gestures
© Getty Images

Belgium had just qualified for the FIFA World Cup™ quarter-finals for the first time in 28 years. But when their captain - who was just two months old when Ceulemans, Scifo and Co thrilled Mexico 1986 - took to Twitter, this was all he wanted to say.

Two words.. TIM HOWARD #Respect #BelUSA

— Vincent Kompany (@VincentKompany) July 1, 2014

Vincent Kompany was not alone. For a time, those two words seemed to be all that anyone in the football world could talk or write about. And no wonder. Howard had been truly heroic in defeat, pulling off 16 saves - a tally unmatched since such World Cup records began - to often single-handedly keep USA in contention. The Budweiser Man of the Match award, bestowed on a defeated player for only the third time at Brazil 2014, seemed scant reward for his extraordinary efforts.

Howard's was a showing that inspired awe and adulation from colleagues, fans, rivals and neutrals alike, with coach Jurgen Klinsmann - in a single answer - using the adjectives "phenomenal", "outstanding" and "amazing" to laud his veteran keeper.* The Wall Street Journa*l, meanwhile, wrote of him producing "the best goalkeeping performance in memory".

The 35-year-old's heroics also turned him into an internet sensation, with over 1.8 million Twitter mentions during the match alone. A hashtag, #ThingsTimHowardCouldSave, also began trending, with dinosaurs, the Titanic and Private Ryan among a host of amusing and inventive suggestions.

Not content with mere praise, USA supporters even launched an official White House petition to rename a Washington airport after their goalkeeping colossus, suggesting it would be just recognition for "a national treasure".

Amid this exaltation, it was easy to forget that the Everton keeper - despite the broken records and stupendous saves - had ended up on the losing side. Yet as his team-mates and coach were quick to acknowledge, the Stars and Stripes would not have survived until extra time had it not been for their goalkeeper's defiant showing.

"I thought he was fantastic," Michael Bradley told FIFA. "He's such an important player for us; a leader. We rely on him so heavily."

Bradley spoke for the entire team. Though laden with disappointment after 120 draining and ultimately fruitless minutes of thrilling action, the US players all made a point of lauding the efforts of a keeper whose future with the national team - he will be 39 at Russia 2018 - has yet to be clarified.

As Jermaine Jones, another of the US stars at Brazil 2014, told FIFA: "Timmy knows that we have trust in him, and he's a key player. He played an amazing game and was man of the match. I can only take my hat off to him."

The man of the moment also spoke to FIFA but, typically of this modest and unassuming character, he preferred to deflect attention from his own performance to the achievements of his team. "We can walk away with our heads held high," he said. "We were in a 'group of death' and now we've gone toe-to-toe with Belgium, a top European side, who will cause Argentina some problems [in the quarter-finals]. I think we've grown as a team and grown as individuals. Right now, we're just filled with pride."

Howard certainly has much to feel proud of. And here are just a few of the tweets that have followed his heroics...

Proud that our guys, just like our country, never gave up. Tim Howard--most valuable player in the World Cup. #USMNT

— Vice President Biden (@VP) July 1, 2014


HEART BREAKER. Proud of how our guys battled at the end. Tim Howard... WOW. #BeastMode #USMNT

— Justin Timberlake (@jtimberlake) July 1, 2014


Tim Howard remains a god. Hanx

— Tom Hanks (@tomhanks) [July 1, 2014


#Howard2016 #Howard2020 #Howard2024 #Howard2028 #Howard2032 pic.twitter.com/bS7xIh3AQS

— Good Morning America (@GMA) July 1, 2014



Over 1.8m mentions of Tim Howard (@TimHowardGK) during #BEL v #USA, with spikes for big saves http://t.co/t7TPIXnhIU

— Twitter Data (@TwitterData) July 1, 2014

These now belong to @TimHowardGK. pic.twitter.com/g3Yw6gcWeW

— MLB (@MLB) 1. Juli 2014

Im proud to suit up w every one of these guys. It's a tremendous honor to represent this country & a ride I'll never forget. Thx for joining

— tim howard (@TimHowardGK) July 2, 2014

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