Belgium’s World Cup exit is due to Lukaku’s misses.

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By Creative Media News

Romelu Lukaku certainly should have left the field clutching the match ball, but the terrible reality is that he did not, his hat-trick of second-half mistakes sentencing Belgium to a humiliating and premature World Cup departure. The worst of the bunch occurred late in stoppage time.

Thorgan Hazard crossed the ball from the right side, and an unmarked Romelu Lukaku sprinted toward the six-yard box. However, instead of finishing from close range, the ball ricocheted off his chest and into the arms of Dominik Livakovic, the Croatian goalkeeper.

Belgium's world cup exit is due to lukaku's misses.
Belgium's world cup exit is due to lukaku's misses.

One of Roberto Martinez’s aides, Thierry Henry, covered his eyes with his tracksuit top. Thomas Meunier threw an empty water bottle on the ground. Yannick Carrasco covered his face with a towel.

Youri Tielemans consoled Lukaku after the final whistle when he punched through the dugout’s exterior structure in a fit of wrath.

Start the jokes about Lukaku finally scoring a goal. Toby Alderweireld, one of the individuals who will never return to this level, was laying on the grass. In the stands, a Belgium supporter costumed as a bright yellow chip cone stood with his hands in his pockets in bewilderment.

Belgiums world cup
Belgium's world cup exit is due to lukaku's misses.

Earlier, some spectators jeered Eden Hazard’s entrance from the substitutes’ bench during the final seven minutes. This final hurrah for Belgium’s golden age went so flat, and afterward, Martnez declared this uninspiring exit would be his last game in charge.

“I cannot continue,” he said. Croatia, the runner-up four years ago, advances to the round of 16 to face the Group E champion.

Lukaku, who also hit the post with a shot, came to Qatar after having made two substitute appearances since August. Perhaps it was unsurprising that the Internazionale forward was out of shape. The circumstances surrounding Belgium’s profoundly disappointing tournament are not made any simpler by this fact.

Kevin De Bruyne had first rejected his team’s prospects of winning the trophy, and in recent days Belgium had to dispel rumors of discord after Eden Hazard criticized the sluggish composition of an aging defense.

The frustrations were exemplified by the image of Martnez angrily screaming at the fourth official over the inability to award a free kick for a back pass after the ball was played to the keeper by the excellent Josko Gvardiol.

The fact that a Mexican wave rippled around the stadium in the 41st minute as Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen tossed the ball from side to side spoke volumes about the entertainment on offer in a first half in which the only drama was a VAR review that led the referee Anthony Taylor to revoke the penalty awarded to Croatia.

Vertonghen headed a free-kick away from the edge of the six-yard box, but Carrasco failed to trap the ball and then fouled Andrej Kramaric, causing Taylor to nod to the penalty spot.

Luka Modric grabbed the ball, and Croatia’s replacements lined the edge of the technical area in expectancy – if not anticipating – but then Taylor visited the pitchside VAR monitor, which indicated Dejan Lovren was offside when he challenged Vertonghen inside the box. Large screens at each end displaying AI-technology replays highlighted the urgency of the call.

At age 35, Vertonghen was the oldest player in a starting lineup at a World Cup since Australia’s 2010 match against Germany. After the loss against Morocco, Martnez made the bold decision to demote Eden Hazard to the bench.

The Real Madrid attacker was one of four players cut. Dries Mertens and Leandro Trossard both made their tournament debuts. At nearly 27 years old, Leicester fullback Timothy Castagne was the team’s rookie.

Ivan Perisic fired a shot wide 11 seconds after being released by Luka Modric, and Leander Dendoncker chased a red-and-white striped Croatia shirt while facing his own goal a minute later. Lukaku initiated the conversion to a 3-4-3 formation, which was made by Martnez at halftime as the opposing team regrouped.

Gvardiol panicked and stretched out his left leg at the front post to prevent De Bruyne’s cross from reaching the lurking striker after Lukaku’s presence gave Croatia pause. A minute later, Lukaku headed a De Bruyne cross weakly toward Livakovic.

The offside flag would have assured that any celebrations were short-lived after he missed with a header from another De Bruyne cross.

But as the clock neared the hour mark of this second-half-energized match, Belgium executed a nice play from which they will wonder how they did not succeed. Particularly Lukaku.

Carrasco’s deft first touch enabled him to glide between two Croatian players and amble toward the goal after receiving a sublime ball from De Bruyne that appeared to be a ruse.

Carrasco appeared to do everything well, but his shot was stopped by the outstretched foot of Josip Juranovic, who raced in front of Livakovic in a desperate attempt to prevent the goal.

The ball then arced tantalizingly across the box towards Lukaku, but he could only hit a stinging shot against Livakovic’s left post. The most frustrating aspect for Lukaku and Belgium was that much worse was yet to come.

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