QATAR: Belgium’s “golden generation” were eliminated from the World Cup after their 0-0 draw with Croatia knocked them out of contention for the last 16. Morocco, who defeated Canada in the other Group F match, topped the table.
Croatia vs Belgium faceoff ends in a scoreless tie
Romelu Lukaku hit the post and missed many scoring opportunities in the match. After finishing third four years ago and leading the world rankings up until recently, Roberto Martinez’s team was well off the pace in Qatar.
Despite an improved performance in the second half that led to a series of Lukaku opportunities, they could not get the win they needed to stay afloat in the tournament after Morocco beat Canada.
Lukaku, a sub for the second half, hit the inside of the post of the open goalpost. He then headed over from a Kevin De Bruyne cross, followed by a wide flick from close range, and chested the ball to the goalkeeper inside the six-yard box. Josko Gvardiol later beat him to a loose ball from a similar distance.
After the match ended, the record goal-scorer for Belgium broke down in the arms of Belgium’s manager, Thierry Henry, and afterward punched a board out of the Belgian dugout in disappointment.
His compatriots, however, had been less than impressive themselves, with just a very close offside call denying Croatia a penalty spot in the first half. Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois had to work hard in the second half to fend off Croatian strikers.
Martinez dropped captain Eden Hazard amid rumours of conflict in the Belgian squad after their 2-0 loss to Morocco in their previous group match. The changes didn’t affect the goalless streak of the team.
This talented group of Belgian footballers may have missed their chance to win trophies because 15 of their 26 players are over 29 years old.
Croatia will need to make significant personal improvements if they want to repeat their run to the final in Russia. However, they are still in the running for a last-16 matchup with the winner of Group E, where Spain leads.