Belgium, third in the 2018 World Cup, left the World Cup in the first round on Thursday in Doha after stumbling over Croatia (0-0), despite three huge chances from Lukaku late in the game. Luka Modric and his teammates, unfortunate finalists from the previous edition, are continuing the adventure.
Second in group F dominated by Morocco (thursday winner of Canada), the men at the checkered will meet Monday the first of group E, that of Spain, Germany, Costa Rica and Japan. The disappointment must be immense for the so-called golden generation of Courtois, Hazard, who entered only at the very end of the match, and another De Bruyne who perhaps shot down his last card in a major tournament this fall in Qatar.
For some Belgian players, well into their thirties (like defenders Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld), this meeting therefore looked like a jubilee. Victorious but laborious against Canada (1-0) before sinking against Morocco (0-2), the Red Devils, who were to win Thursday to continue the adventure, were unable to score. However, the opportunities did not fail to meet after Lukaku entered the game.
Even if it means being eliminated, the players from the flat country wanted to do it in “warrior” mode, captain Eden Hazard had warned on the eve of the shock. The Spanish coach of Belgium has also played his all by surprising from the pre-match with four changes compared to the team which had taken the water (0-2) four days earlier against Morocco .
Three arrows at the outposts
Rather than relying on Hazard (leaving the Eden brothers and Thorgan on the bench), Roberto Martinez preferred to occupy the flanks with Yannick Carrasco and Dries Mertens. And at the forefront, Romelu Lukaku, convalescing, still not being able to start a match, it was Leandro Trossard who was responsible for playing in false 9.
By aligning three arrows at the outposts, Martinez thought he was surprising. But it was the Croats who created the first chance in the tenth second on a poorly aimed shot from Ivan Perisic. The Belgians experienced another big scare in the 16th minute, when a penalty called for a foul by Carrasco was finally canceled following an offside by Kramaric spotted by the VAR.
For the rest, we only saw snippets of the team so attractive in 2018, which sat at the top of the Fifa rankings for almost four years. Especially thanks to the entry into the game at the break of Romelu Lukaku (who had only played 38 minutes since the end of August), which directly weighed on the face of the match. And the latter will long regret the missed opportunities in the last seconds, like in the 90th when he only had to push the ball into the empty goal instead of awkwardly cushioning it with his chest.