Romelu Lukaku was left in tears following a series of horror misses resulted in Belgium’s group stage elimination from the World Cup – and he broke the dugout with a frustrated pᴜnch.
Lukaku, currently on loan at Italian giants Inter from Chelsea, was brought on as a half-time substitute in the scoreless draw against Croatia and spurned multiple goalscoring opportunities that would have clinched victory and sealed progression to the knockout stages.
The Red Devils entered this World Cup ranked second in the FIFA World Rankings and following a third-placed finish in the 2018 tournament, they were once again considered to be among the frontrunners in this winter’s competition. However, they have fallen at the first hurdle.
Lukaku was consoled by Thierry Henry after the match
Lukaku replaced Dries Mertens at half time of the encounter and while his presence in the penalty area saw Belgium pose a much greater goal threɑt – following an opening period in which they rarely troubled Croatia’s defence – but the striker was culpable of being incredibly wasteful in front of goal.
He fired a right-footed shot off the post when presented with an open goal to begin his second half of horror misses, before minutes later heading over the top from six yards when the goal was again gaping – albeit that wouldn’t have counted as Kevin De Bruyne’s cross had already gone out of play.
The 29-year-old then flicked an effort wide from four yards late on when the ball arrived at him quickly, before missing the biggest sitter of all; Thorgan Hazard hung up a cross to the far post and Lukaku, three yards from goal, mis-controlled on the chest and allowed the chance to go begging. The striker only needed to head the ball in from point-blank range but directed it at Croatia goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic.
That was Belgium’s final chance as they exited the tournament with just four points from their three matches, as Morocco and Croatia progressed. Lukaku was unable to hide his emotion after the match as he broke down in tears at the sideline, being consoled by Belgium assistant coach Thierry Henry.
“He’s only played 31 minutes since August so nowhere near fit,” said Alan Shearer on BBC One.. “It can’t be put down just to him, because Belgium were miles off. They were nowhere near good enough.”
Speaking on BBC Sport after the match, Belgium boss Roberto Martinez said: ” We can leave with our heads held high. ”
Roberto Martinez has an ᴜnexpected statement about the performance of the Belgian team
The Spaniard’s contract with the Belgian FA comes to an end when the tournament in Qatar reaches its conclusion, and asked if he wished to continue, the ex-Everton boss said: “Now is not the time.”