Romelu Lukaku left the field in tears after THREE huge misses as Belgium’s World Cup was brought to an end with a goalless draw against Croatia.
The Red Devils’ so-called Golden Generation needed a victory against the 2018 finalists, but exit Qatar at the group stage. In the end it was a tournament too far for the ageing side, whom Kevin de Bruyne had labelled “too old” to be contenders ahead of the competition.
After a 1-0 win over Canada and a shocking 2-0 loss to Morocco, Roberto Martinez’s side, who are, according to FIFA’s world rankings, the second best international side on the planet, knew they needed to win their final group game.
After a dour first period in which his side had been largely devoid of quality, Martinez turned to Lukaku, the Chelsea misfit back on loan at Inter Milan, who arrived at the tournament injured, at half-time.
But the 29-year-old missed a host of chances in the second period on a nightmare night.
He fired a right-footed shot off the post when presented with an open goal to begin his second half of sin, before heading over the top from six yards when the goal was again gaping – albeit that wouldn’t have counted as De Bruyne’s cross had gone out of play.
Belgium’s No.9 flicked 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.
“He’s only played 31 minutes since August so nowhere near fit,” said Alan Shearer. “It can’t be put down just to him, because Belgium were miles off. They were nowhere near good enough.”
Jermaine Jenas added: “Belgium’s campaign as a whole hasn’t been good enough. They threw everything at it in the end but the experience of this Croatia side just about got them over the line.
“There are distraught players in that Belgium side but when they look at themselves in the mirror they’ll realise it just was not good enough and that is why they’re out.”
Speaking to TV, Martinez saw things somewhat differently however, and said: “We can leave with our heads held high.”
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.”
Croatia finish second in the group behind Morocco, who defeated Canada 2-1 to top the group with seven points.
Photo Credit: Getty