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Messi and Argentina advance at World Cup, Howard and US go home despite display for ages

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    United States' goalkeeper Tim Howard reacts after Belgium's Kevin De Bruyne scored the opening goal during the World Cup round of 16 soccer match between Belgium and the USA at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador, Brazil, Tuesday, July 1, 2014. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)The Associated Press

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    Switzerland's goalkeeper Diego Benaglio dives but can't stop a goal by Argentina's Angel di Maria in extra time during the World Cup round of 16 soccer match between Argentina and Switzerland at the Itaquerao Stadium in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Tuesday, July 1, 2014. (AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano)The Associated Press

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    United States' Julian Green, left, scores his side's first goal during the World Cup round of 16 soccer match between Belgium and the USA at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador, Brazil, Tuesday, July 1, 2014. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)The Associated Press

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    An Argentina soccer fan on his knees holds a poster of Pope Francis as he watches the World Cup round of 16 match between Argentina and Switzerland inside the FIFA Fan Fest area in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Tuesday, July 1, 2014. Argentina beat Switzerland 1-0 in extra time to reach World Cup quarterfinals. (AP Photo/Nelson Antoine)The Associated Press

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    Switzerland's coach Ottmar Hitzfeld arrives for the World Cup round of 16 soccer match between Argentina and Switzerland at the Itaquerao Stadium in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Tuesday, July 1, 2014. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)The Associated Press

The World Cup still has Lionel Messi. Tim Howard is heading home despite a heroic display of goalkeeping.

A moment of Messi inspiration helped lift an unconvincing Argentina to a 1-0 win over Switzerland after extra time in the Round of 16 on Tuesday, creating the goal scored by Angel Di Maria in the 118th minute.

Howard's stunning performance could not stop the Americans falling to a 2-1 extra-time loss against favored Belgium that had a pulsating finale.

The veteran 'keeper repelled most of Belgium's 27 shots on target but was finally beaten by Kevin De Bruyne in the 93rd and substitute Romelu Lukaku in the 105th. Teenager Julian Green's 107th-minute goal sparked a bold fight back but coach Jurgen Klinsmann's team could not find a leveler to force a penalty shootout.

Argentina now faces Belgium in a quarterfinals lineup that is a sweep of the eight group winners. They start Friday with France vs. Germany in Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro.

Anticipation was soured a little Tuesday by fixing allegations from earlier matches at the World Cup.

Cameroon's football federation said it would investigate after the team's integrity was questioned by a German magazine. Der Spiegel claimed convicted match-fixer Wilson Raj Perumal correctly predicted in online exchanges with a reporter that Cameroon would lose 4-0 to Croatia and a player would be sent off before halftime.

"Yes, I have been told about this but let them do their work on this investigation," FIFA President Sepp Blatter told reporters in Brazil on Tuesday.

Hours later, Perumal's biographers issued a statement on his behalf denying all allegations.

Howard's heroics in goal topped Messi in the doubleheader which closed second round.

After Messi scored in each of Argentina's three group matches, Switzerland almost made good on its promise to shut down the four-time FIFA player of the year.

The Swiss certainly had the best first-half chances in Sao Paulo, created by their own mini-Messi, the equally tiny, powerful and left-footed forward Xherdan Shaqiri.

First, Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero stretched his left foot to block Granit Xhaka's low shot, then stood up to gather a weak chipped shot by Josip Drmic.

"They had two clear chances and after that the match was ours," Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella said.

When Messi threatened, his scything volley skimmed over the Swiss crossbar and a low shot was parried by 'keeper Diego Benaglio.

A shootout loomed until Messi broke free of pursuing Swiss defenders. He found Di Maria on the left side of the penalty box for a sweeping left-foot shot beyond Benaglio's dive.

Argentina was then shaken in stoppage time when a close-range header by substitute Blerim Dzemaili hit the base of Romero's right hand post. The rebound struck Dzemaili's knee and went wide.

In Salvador, Howard was the U.S. savior from the first minute in a match of steadily rising tension.

A sprawling block to deny Divock Origi opened a duel with the teenage Belgian forward throughout regulation time.

Origi hit the crossbar with a header in the 56th and drew saves from one-on-one chances in the 71st and 85th.

Howard saved perhaps his best to keep out a Kevin Mirallas shot in the 76th.