Lukaku missed several goals and failed to save Belgium from an embarrassing group-stage elimination.
In one of the most anticipated matches of the last round of the World Cup group stage, Croatia and Belgium faced off in a direct duel for a place in the round of 16.
Despite the tension surrounding the decision, quality was lacking in the first half for both teams, with no finalization on target in the first 45 minutes, equaling Costa Rica x Japan in negative statistics.
In the first half, Croatia occupied the offensive field more with a line of five players in the attack, with Ivan Perisic close to Marcelo Brozovic and Luka Modric, who failed to test goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
Even with the good offensive presence, the Croatians lacked more quality in the final third, a notable fragility for the dispute of the next phase, where Croatia will be more demanded against opponents who work better the conclusions.
However, the consolidation of the young Gvardiol in the Croatia national team at just 20 years old is excellent news considering the continuity of this World Cup. Against Belgium, the youngster had nine tackles, being decisive in preventing Lukaku’s goals in the small area.
The RB Leipzig defender is smart with the ball and fundamental in his off-the-ball work, triggering his teammates in the offensive construction. Without considerable quality on the attacking side, Gvardiol certainly demonstrated an ability to decide important matchups in the next stage.
On the other hand, the selection of Belgium ends the golden generation with a terrible result and a considerable lack of performance under the technical command of Roberto Martínez, who resigned shortly after the vexatious participation in this World Cup.
Martinez once again opted for a 4-2-3-1 without Lukaku at number 9. Michy Batshuayi scored the winning goal against Canada but did little to collaborate with the defensive system.
In the decisive duel against Croatia, Romelu Lukaku entered only in the second half, changing the structure of the match. In the final stretch, crosses for the experienced 38-year-old striker would almost define the classification of Belgium, who pressed in the final minutes.
The departure of Roberto Martínez spells the end of Belgium’s golden generation, closing an important chapter in world football. For the Belgians, the only regret is the lack of conquests.
CANADA 1-2 MOROCCO
In the other decisive Group F side, Morocco made history by overcoming Canada 2-1 and securing a place in the round of 16 for the first time in 36 years.
Canada once again demonstrated trouble-building plays and had just one on-target finish despite having the offensive initiative from the start. However, top scorer Ziyech took his Chelsea potential to the World Cup and put in another excellent performance.
Ziyech started on the right alongside Hakimi and Em-Nesyri, demonstrating excellent quality in the final third on several occasions, enhancing Morocco’s offensive strength.
On the other hand, even with the defeat, Canada left the World Cup with a solid offensive performance, leaving good expectations for the technical improvement aiming at the 2026 World Cup.
Sports journalist, content writer and passionate football lover.