Thanks to the NOT-IN-THE-FACE Team USA game-plan and its impotent execution by anyone not wearing goalkeeping gloves, it was only a matter of time before Belgium made one of their approximately six million chances count. Tim Howard may have pulled off minor miracle after minor miracle, but at some point, as he put it, the levee was going to break.
And in the second minute of extra time, the levee did break, and it was Romelu Lukaku doing the breaking. He had been relegated to the bench by the more impressive Divock Origi, but faced with a knackered and already a bit crap USA defense in extra time, he ran riot.
"They brought big Rom on. He was a handful. He ran at us, scored a goal, created chances for other guys. That's what you want from your substitutes. Julian came on and did the same thing for us."
"Big Rom changed the game. That's what he does."
-Tim Howard; source: Soccerway
As a Chelsea fan, this was glorious. And I say that with very little cynicism. It was glorious and hopeful and enlightening and real.
Suddenly visions of Diego Costa and Romelu Lukaku working together to first tire out and then pummel defenses into submission danced in my head. Here you go, opposing defenses, have fun with a man who's willing to go to war in the trenches to annoy and irritate and do whatever is necessary (without using any teeth) to get you off your game and tire you out for 70-75-80 minutes (if not score a couple as well in the meantime). And then, just when you think you've escaped, here comes the freight train. Brace yourselves. Not that it'll help. Have some of that!
This is not to shortchange Lukaku's current or future abilities. He may yet one day actually live up to his own billing of "complete striker." He might even make that step up next season. But if nothing else, we have him as our knockout punch, the battering ram to make mince meat once again of the Carraghers and Beslers of the world. And people will yell UNLEASH THE KRAKEN and he shall be unleashed.
This of course assumes that we can sort out our childish differences with Lukaku, get him back to the club, give him a cuddle and a Mourinho pep talk, and get to work. We've got a title to win, after all.