(MENAFN- Trend News Agency)
Romelu Lukaku missed a string of late chances as Belgium crashed
out of the World Cup in the group stage after a 0-0 draw with
Croatia on Thursday which sent the 2018 runners-up into the
knockout phase, trend reports citing bein
Croatia had a penalty award controversially cancelled by VAR
early in a largely uneventful first half.
The introduction of Lukaku at the interval changed the game, but
he was guilty of three dreadful misses as Zlatko Dalic's side rode
their luck to hold on.
Croatia progressed as runners-up in Group F behind winners
Morocco who beat Canada 2-1 to also qualify for the last 16.
Belgium, the world's second-ranked side, saw their run of
reaching at least the quarter-finals at four straight major
tournaments come to an abrupt end.
Roberto Martinez's men managed just one goal in the tournament
in a fortunate opening 1-0 win over Canada.
Martinez dropped captain Eden Hazard to the bench as one of four
changes which also saw Leandro Trossard and Dries Mertens start for
the first time in Qatar.
The build-up to the match had been dominated by rumours of an
altercation between senior Belgian players, involving Eden Hazard,
which Martinez described as 'fake news'.
Croatia almost took the lead inside the first 10 seconds, as the
ball was played forward to Ivan Perisic after kick-off and the
Tottenham man cut inside and drilled a shot just wide of the far
The likelihood of Belgium needing to win was increased when
Morocco scored an early goal across Doha. Yannick Carrasco had a
chance to open the scoring but his shot was blocked.
- Penalty overturned -
Mertens curled over after a trademark Kevin De Bruyne run and
pass, before Croatia were awarded a penalty seconds later when
Carrasco tripped Andrej Kramaric in the box.
But the decision was overturned following a lengthy VAR check
which decided that a tiny fraction of Dejan Lovren's shoulder was
Desperate for a goal after a first half in which neither side
mustered a shot on target, Martinez sent on Lukaku, Belgium's
record scorer, for Mertens at half-time.
They immediately carried more threat, with Lukaku, who struggled
with injury in the build-up to the tournament, heading straight at
Croatia goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic.
Thibaut Courtois was then called into action for the first time,
stretching to tip over Mateo Kovacic's curling effort as the game
That also suited the Croatian attackers though and Courtois had
to twice get down to keep out low shots from Marcelo Brozovic and
Belgium should have taken the lead on the hour mark.
Carrasco almost bundled the ball in but was denied by Livakovic,
before Lukaku contrived to hit the post with the goal gaping on the
Lukaku was guilty of an even worse miss two minutes later,
heading over an empty net from six yards out, although replays
suggested the ball may have been out of play when De Bruyne crossed
Martinez also threw on Thorgan Hazard, Youri Tielemans and
Jeremy Doku as Belgium searched for that all important goal.
Lukaku saw another chance come and go in the 87th minute,
deflecting the ball wide from Thomas Meunier's volley.
The striker, on loan at Inter Milan from Chelsea, still had
another golden opportunity to be the hero, but he opted to chest
the ball towards the open net from three yards out and directed it
into the arms of Livakovic.