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As his 2014 World Cup journey came to a close, U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann had plenty to think about after the Americans 2-1 defeat at the hands of Belgium on July 1.

He could begin with the positives, and there are plenty of them.

His team played with an effort that is worth being proud of. They played with more grit and confidence than ever. They weren’t just the same old Americans that weren’t really feared. No, this time they had really earned some respect.

They had taken down old nemesis Ghana and imposed their will on powerhouse Portugal. They had held Germany steady enough to not lose decisively and had been outplayed by Belgium, but through Tim Howard, still showed that their country could also be a home to one of the best soccer talents in the world.

They had played with more toughness, wisdom and poise than ever, while making sure that after this World Cup, the clichés and jokes about American soccer were all but silenced.

They had also made a nation believe. They had made a country come closer together for soccer than ever before. Maybe it was because of the social media craze that’s sweeping America or maybe it was something else, but either way, “I believe” began to feel as patriotic as the red white and blue of the flag.

Klinsmann’s group did not come close to winning the World Cup. In fact, they lost in the exact same way as in 2010, a round of 16, 2-1, extra time loss. But even in losing, the American side was able to capture the attention of their fans at home.

“Many people watched this competition, maybe more than South Africa,” Klinsmann said the day after the Belgium loss. “We are all in this together. We all try to make this game grow in our country and get it to the next level.”

Klinsmann has begun to inspire belief in his national program, but he must also be pondering what needs to happen for his team to take the next step.

A marquee striker is needed with a game that reaches further than anything Landon Donovan or Clint Dempsey ever did. The U.S. needs a feared striker that the team can find its identity in – a Suárez, or Neymar or Messi type of player.

Right now, the best chances lay with 19-year-old Julian Green, whose goal minutes after making his World Cup debut against Belgium made a promising statement for the future of U.S. soccer. With four years to develop until the next World Cup, Green could be ready to lead this team and be supported by other young promising players like defenders John Brooks and DeAndre Yedlin.

Defense should be the bigger focus, though. A big time goal-scorer won’t make up for the lack of defending the U.S. had throughout the entire World Cup. This is their biggest task at hand to take the next step. Strong defenders are needed desperately. In the Belgium game alone, the U.S. allowed 26 shots compared to nine given up by Belgium. If it were not for Howard’s 15 saves, they would have been completely dismantled.

Great defending won’t necessarily win you a World Cup, but it can neutralize teams like Germany and Brazil in their attacking. If reaching a World Cup victory is possible for the U.S., it will have to start with learning how not to lose.

It’s something that Klinsmann will need to figure out. He will ultimately have to align a group that defends well and creates better counterattacks than the U.S. had in this World Cup.

Klinsmann surely knows this and he has likely already began pondering what his next group of guys will look like.

Older players like Dempsey and Howard might have seen their last World Cup. The U.S. will look completely different in four years. But they also might be more ready. Their time to really make a run at it might be only a few decisions away.

American goalkeeper Tim Howard played the game of his life Tuesday but it wasn’t enough to keep the Americans in the World Cup.

After 120 minutes of play, the Belgians walked off the pitch with a 2-1 victory and a date with Argentina in the quarterfinals. Throughout the game Belgium was in dominant form, as it got 39 total shots. But Howard was phenomenal as he saved shot after shot, ending the match with the most saves in a World Cup game since 1966 with 16.

“That’s my job,” Howard said. “That’s what I signed up to do.”

Despite being under constant duress, the U.S. was able to push the game into extra time. But the Belgians were able to breakthrough in 93rd minute on a Kevin De Bruyne goal. Romelu Lukaku extended Belgium’s lead to 2-0 with a beautiful goal in the 105th minute.

But the Americans refused to go away. Julian Green pulled the U.S. to within one with a fantastic volley that Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois couldn't get enough of. Green is the youngest player to ever score for the U.S. in the World Cup.

The Americans gave it one more shot on a set piece. The U.S. was able to sneak the ball behind the Belgian defense but Courtois blocked a shot from forward Clint Dempsey. There were more opportunities as the game came to an end but the U.S. was unable to score the equalizer.

“We’re probably unlucky to get the equalizer there at the end,” midfielder Michael Bradley said. “You get to this point and everybody’s a good team. Every game is gonna be a hard game and you know that it’s gonna be a play here or play there [that’s] gonna make a difference.”

Belgium moves on to play the Argentines who scored a late extra time goal against Switzerland to move on. For the Americans, this is their second consecutive loss in the Round of 16. The U.S.’s last appearance in the quarterfinals was in 2002 after it defeated Mexico. The Americans followed up that victory with a 1-0 loss to Germany.

While the loss stings for a team that “believed” it could win against anyone it faced, the Americans showed improvement under the direction of German born coach Jurgen Klinsmann. Klinsmann plans to be back for the 2018 World Cup in Russia and looks to continue pushing the U.S. name into the ranks of world’s best teams.

“We take a lot, a tremendous amount away from this experience,” Klinsmann said. “I think we grew a lot. We know now that we can play eye-to-eye with the big nations.”

GHENT, Belgium — The main suspect in the legendary art heist is said to have whispered with his dying breath: “Only I know where the ‘Adoration’ is...”

More than seven decades later, the whereabouts of a panel belonging to one of Western art’s defining works, the “Adoration of the Mystic Lamb,” also known as the “Ghent Altarpiece,” remains a mystery.

If the stunning heist of Picasso, Monet and Matisse paintings in Rotterdam, Netherlands, last month focused attention on the murky world of art theft, the gothic Saint Bavo cathedral in Ghent has been at the center of a crime that has bedeviled the art world for decades.

“The Just Judges” panel of the Van Eyck brothers’ multi-panel Gothic masterpiece hasn’t been seen since 1934, when chief suspect Arsene Goedertier suffered a stroke at a political rally and died after murmuring those fateful words to a confidant.

The theft has kept the country enthralled ever since, with its heady mix of priceless art and scintillating detective story.

Ghent was hit by two thefts on the night of April 10, 1934: “One was a wheel of cheese,” said detective Jan De Kesel. “The other was the panel.”

That slowed up the investigation of the art theft, in which a minor panel of the “Adoration of the Mystic Lamb” representing St. John the Baptist, was also lifted.

“Don’t laugh,” said De Kesel, one of a long line of detectives searching for the lost work: “It was 1934, there was an economic depression — and the wheel of cheese had priority.”

The probe went nowhere until the St. John the Baptist panel was found that year in the luggage claim of a Brussels train station wrapped in brown paper. It wasn’t the sign of a guilty criminal conscience — just an extortion ploy proving that the thief, or thieves, had “The Just Judges.” A note demanded a million Belgian francs, a massive sum at the time, for the panel’s return.

The local bishop produced only a fraction of the ransom demand and more extortion letters followed.

Then Goedertier died, yielding another clue in his apparent confession: “In my office … drawer … closet.” There, copies of the old extortion letters and the draft of a new one were found.

Adding to the theft’s mystique, this last one read: “’The Just Judges’ are in a place where neither I nor anyone else can take it without drawing the public’s attention.” Police also found indecipherable drawings possibly pointing to a hiding place.

Ever since, Belgium has been in the grip of a decades-long treasure hunt, one that has drawn detectives of every ilk: cab drivers, computer scientists, lawyers and retired police inspectors, among others.

From divining rods to endoscopes to SS Nazi search parties, it has all been to no avail. Overanxious amateur sleuths have even drilled holes into important monuments on the hunch the panel might be there.

One of the more popular theories is that Goedertier, a stockbroker, may never have taken the panel out of the cathedral, but hidden it somewhere inside. But lifting every pane or tile in the massive St. Bavo would carry a prohibitive cost and risk damaging the historic edifice.

“There are not even indications as to what part of the church it might be in,” said De Kesel. “And I tell you, there are an awful lot of nooks and crannies.”

Perhaps closest to the mystery these days is art restorer Bart Devolder, at Ghent’s Museum of Fine Arts. He is working on the most ambitious restoration yet of the 15th-century painting. Devolder hopes the five-year restoration will raise interest in the theft of “The Just Judges,” which was replaced in 1941 by a much-lauded copy from art restorer Jozef Vander Veken.

The ongoing restoration “offers the opportunity for a new boost to look for it,” Devolder said in an interview while taking a break from work. “It really bothers me that the work is not complete.”

“The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb” was finished in 1432 as medieval times gave way to the Renaissance, and the work’s stunning detail and sense of light were at the time unsurpassed.

Much as the restoration of Rome’s Sistine Chapel a dozen years ago wiped the grime off Michelangelo’s multicolored glories, there is hope the same will happen to the “Ghent Altarpiece” under Devolder’s efforts.

“If we remove the yellowing varnish, people will see the genius of Van Eyck even more,” Devolder said.

He maintains hope that he will one day get his hands on “The Just Judges” — for restoration only of course. “I am sure it will take a great deal of work,” he said, “depending where it was kept.”

He made an appeal to whoever might have possession of the panel.

“We have an extra easel here,” said Devolder. “They can quietly bring it in here. No questions asked.”

Photo Credit: Caitlin Zellers | Daily Texan Staff

Man's Oldest Friend?

The dog may have been domesticated earlier than we previously thought. Two 33,000-year-old dog skulls have been found in Siberia and Belgium with shortened snouts, indicating a domesticated, rather than a wild, species. This is especially interesting because it appears that the domestication of dogs took place earlier than that of other, more “useful” animals such as cows or goats, which provide food for us. It is believed that the dogs may have provided protection, companionship or hunting assistance to ancestral humans.

Spidey Senses
Though not as cuddly as dogs, spiders are just as interesting. Japanese researchers have recently discovered that jumping spiders have a method for seeing 3D images that appears to be unique in the animal kingdom. Spiders have special eyes with four separate layers that can detect light. One of these layers views green light in focus and another views it out of focus. By testing spiders’ abilities to catch flies in the absence of green light, the scientists determined that the spiders can detect depth by noting how out of focus the light is in the out-of-focus layer. These results shed light on how a small arachnid brain can quickly analyze and react to complex visual information.

New Membrane Means Stronger Alcohol

A new, thin membrane made from graphene won’t allow most gasses to pass through it. Even helium, which can make its way through relatively thick glass, won’t pass through this material. However, what makes this material remarkable is that, despite its impenetrability to most gasses, water vapor passes through it as easily as if it wasn’t there. Applications? The researchers insist that there are likely many uses for the new material; however, between them, the only practical thing they could come up with was using it to seal a bottle of vodka. They let the bottle sit and the water evaporate and soon ended up with a much stronger drink.

Dinosaur Wore Black

Once thought to be unknowable, scientists are slowly but surely discovering the likely color of various species of dinosaurs. The latest victory is archaeopteryx. A well-preserved wing feather has recently been analyzed and, through the use of an electron microscope, scientists have found fossilized remains of the parts of the cell that produce the color. By comparing the results with a similar cell found in modern living birds, it can be stated with 95 percent certainty that the feather was black. 

Hi-Def Earth

A new photograph of our planet has been making its way around the web. While it’s not the largest, most detailed or even a real photograph in the conventional sense, it’s a beaut and well worth checking out. The image was created by a satellite orbiting the planet that takes data comparing the amount of light falling on the Earth to that reflected off of it. The picture is a composite of several images taken by the satellite on Jan. 4, combined to make one awe-inspiring portrait of the place we call home.