World Cup Group F: Lukaku misses golden chance, Belgium crash out in 0-0 draw to Croatia

Romelu Lukaku Belgium Croatia World Cup
Belgium’s Romelu Lukaku takes control of the ball during the World Cup group F soccer match between Croatia and Belgium at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan, Qatar, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

Romelu Lukaku will be left to rue his chances forever.

The star forward, who wasn’t fully fit to play for most of Belgium’s short World Cup stint, missed three open looks at goal on Thursday in a 0-0 draw to Croatia. It eliminates the 2018 third-place finishers from this year’s edition of the tournament in Qatar — a shocking result given the pedigree of talent the Red Devils boast. 

The draw ensures Croatia — runners-up to France in 2018 — advances from Group F but only in second place to surprising Morocco, which defeated Canada 2-1 on Thursday. 

Desperate for a goal in the second half, Belgium called on their most prolific striker in Lukaku to try and save the day. 

In the 60th minute, a driving run from Yannick Carrasco down the center of the Croatian box was turned away and into the path of Lukaku. With the keeper out of position having helped work it away and the angle tight with a defender in front of him, Lukaku couldn’t bend it quite enough into the net as it rang off the post. 

In the 63rd minute, a cross from Kevin De Bruyne that likely would have been called back for going over the line and out of play was deflected but still very much in the path of Lukaku. The striker didn’t even have to jump, but he whizzed the header over the crossbar. 

In the 87th minute, a low, driven cross made its way to an unsuspecting Lukaku — who likely didn’t expect the ball to find his feet — right in front of an open Croatia goal. Instead, it cannoned off his planted leg and away from danger.

Yet that still wasn’t his worse missed opportunity.

In the 90th minute, a cross from the right side of the box found Lukaku at the opposite post with a yawning goal again. He chested the ball down across the face of goal rather than redirecting it toward the net — likely to try and set up a second touch where he’d drive it home with his feet. But the touch was far too hard and it rolled away from his feet in what was the Belgians’ final legitimate chance to score and find a way to the knockout round.

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