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Tim Howard’s heroics not enough in “heartbreaking” US World Cup exit

Jul 1, 2014, 7:35 PM EDT

Howard became a one man band against Belgium. AP

Tim Howard didn’t deserve to be on the losing side in Salvador on Tuesday.

The U.S. national team ‘keeper put in one of the best goalkeeping displays the World Cup has ever seen. He made 16 saves, which is the most in a single WC game since 1966 and since records began.

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Howard was immense. Time and time again he thwarted the Belgian attack with save after sprawling save. The Everton goalkeeper elevated his status from one of the world’s top 10 goalkeepers, to perhaps in the top three. Maybe even the best.

He was that good vs. Belgium.

Speaking to ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap on the pitch moments after the U.S. crashed out of the World Cup, Howard reflected on a brave effort from his U.S. teammates.

“It is heartbreaking,” Howard said. “We couldn’t have given any more. We left it all out there. We got beat by a really good team. They took their chances very well.”

Howard, of course, was low-key about the his performance but U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann was full of praise for his heroic ‘keeper.

“Tim was phenomenal, he kept us in this game” Klinsmann said. “He had an amazing match tonight. You have to give him the biggest compliments in the world.”

As for Howard, he said it’s his job to play like that.

“It is what I signed up to do. It is part of it,” Howard said with a smile on his face. “The levee is going to break at some point if we continued that way. Hats off to Belgium, they were fantastic but we gave a valiant effort.”

Speaking about the overall performance of his team and how they fought until the end, they almost snatched a late draw after being 2-0 down, Howard put this U.S. effort into context.

“When you are in the game you always believe you can do it. What an incredible group,” Howard said. “Sometimes you give it your best but it doesn’t come off… When we changed things over, we just tried to get a goal. At 2-1 we did, but the dream falls short and this is an incredible group. We will never forget this night.”

The final word comes from Belgium’s captain Vincent Kompany. This Tweet says it all…

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