Belgium coach Roberto Martinez says the absence of “irreplaceable” Romelu Lukaku from the World Cup would force his side to change the way it plays, but the striker has not been ruled out of the tournament yet, team officials confirmed.
Lukaku is struggling with a hamstring injury having only recently returned from two months on the sidelines and is a doubt for the finals in Qatar, with Belgium opening its tournament against Canada on November 23.
But team doctor Kristof Sas has described the latest injury as a “setback” rather than a fatal blow to the player’s World Cup chances.
“It is not yet a line through the issue, but it is a setback for the player himself, his club and the Red Devils (Belgium national team),” Sas was quoted by HLN.
Martinez spoke last week about the importance of Lukaku in his side and how he covers a number of the attacking positions in the team. Without him it will potentially need to restructure its midfield and forward line.
“At the Red Devils, he is irreplaceable,” Martinez told Nieuwsblad. “Every national team has irreplaceable players. Look at Argentina with Messi, Croatia with Modric, Brozovic and Kovacic, Spain and Germany also have such players. That’s just how it works.
“With us it’s Courtois, De Bruyne and Lukaku. You cannot replace them one on one. If they don’t play, we have to play in a different way. If Lukaku is not there, maybe we should play with more attackers.”
Lukaku’s Italian club Inter Milan confirmed on Monday that the player had suffered a “myotendinous strain in his left hamstring” and would be monitored this week to ascertain he severity of the problem.
The 29-year-old returned to action last week and scored in a 4-0 Champions League win over Viktoria Plzen, and also featured off the bench in the 3-0 Serie A win over Sampdoria on Saturday.