FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022: Croatia 0-0 Belgium

Match report as Romelu Lukaku struggles as a substitute in Belgium’s 0-0 tie with Croatia; 2018 runners-up into knockouts with Group F winners Morocco; Roberto Martinez’s team, ranked No. 2 in the world, sent home with a third-place result; later announced his resignation as Belgium manager.

Croatia 0-0 Belgium

Romelu Lukaku missed numerous opportunities and struck the post as Belgium’s “golden generation” was eliminated from the World Cup. The 2018 runners-up Morocco and Group F champions Croatia advanced thanks to Croatia’s 0-0 draw with Belgium. In third place four years ago and number one in the world rankings until recently, Roberto Martinez’s team struggled to keep up in Qatar. Despite a second-half improvement that gave Romelu Lukaku several scoring opportunities, they were unable to secure the victory they required as Morocco defeated Canada.

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Substituted at halftime, Lukaku missed a wide-open goal with a shot against the inside of the post, headed over a Kevin De Bruyne cross, flicked the ball wide from close range, chested the ball to the goalkeeper from inside the six-yard box, and in stoppage time, was outmuscled by Josko Gvardiol from a similar distance to claim a loose ball.

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Only a very close offside review prevented Croatia from receiving a penalty in the first half, and Thibaut Courtois was put to the test in the second. After the game, Belgium’s record scorer sobbed in the arms of coach Thierry Henry and then punched a panel out of the dugout in frustration. However, his team had once again played below par. Martinez had benched captain Eden Hazard amid rumours of dissent in the Belgian camp after their 2-0 humiliation by Morocco in their previous group game, but the team’s lone goal in this group stage remained unchanged.

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This talented squad of Belgian footballers may have wasted their chance to win trophies since 15 of their 26 players at the competition were 29 years old or older. Martinez also reached the end of the road when Belgium’s manager announced he would not be staying in the position.

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