Welcome to Sportstar’s highlights of the FIFA World Cup Group F clash between Croatia and Belgium. This was Nihit Sachdeva taking you through the live action as it unfolded at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in Ar-Rayyan.
Post-match scenes - Romelu Lukaku is devastated. He breaks a dugout window with his right hand before the visuals of him being consoled by Thierry Henry, Belgium’s assistant coach and France’s joint-highest goal scorer of all time are shown.
Referee Anthony Taylor blows the full-time whistle. Belgium fails to progress to the knockout stage of a World Cup for the first time since 1998. Croatia, the 2018 runner-up, is through to the round of 16 as second-placed team in Group F. Morocco beats Canada 2-1 to finish as the Group topper. Incredible.
Lukaku had plenty of chances to win the match for Belgium but he just could not find the back of the net.
Final few seconds. Croatia has the ball inside the Belgian half as the time, finally, runs out.
Lukaku looked set to have another chance in front of the goal but Gvardiol with a brilliant challenge from behind cleared the ball away.
Four minutes of stoppage time.
LUKAKU! WHAT HAVE YOU DONE!!!! The easiest chance for Lukaku and he fails to convert. Doku does brilliant work to keep the ball inside the Croatian box before passing it to Thorgan Hazard on the right. Hazard’s cross found Lukaku on the far post but the Belgian forward freezes as the ball hits him in the abdomen before Livakovic pouches it.
Free kick for Belgium. Kevin De Bruyne sends it into the Croatian box but Livakovic collects it easily.
LUKAKU MISSES!!!! Another big opportunity goes for the Red Devils. Castagne’s cross from the left met Lukaku’s head before the rebound found Meunier who passed it back to Lukaku but the Belgian forward sent the shot wide of the near post. Eden Hazard comes on for Meunier.
Corner for Belgium after KdB’s cross from the right is blocked behind by a Croatian defender. De Bruyne with the corner kick which meets Vertonghen’s head but no threat to the Croatian goal. Meanwhile, Eden Hazard waits on the sideline to be subbed on.
Modric releases Pasalic on the right wing, passed back to a charging Juranovic at the edge of the Belgian box but the ball is cleared before the Croatian player could get anything on it.
Into the final 10 minutes of regulation time. Kovacic puts Juranovic through on the right who takes the ball into the Belgian box before his cut back is cleared by a Belgian player.
Croatia is looking to slow things down. A draw would be enough to send the 2018 runner-up through to the round of 16. However, with the current scoreline, it is anybody’s match.
Counter attack from Belgium. Hazard wins the corner. Vertonghen’s header off the corner kick seemed to have taken a deflection off a Croatian player before going behind it is a goal-kick for Croatia.
Perisic is through. It’s two vs two situation. Perisic keeps on going himself and just when he enters the Belgian box, Vertonghen clears the ball away.
Aerial ball for Perisic from Gvardiol on the left wing. Perisic does well to keep the ball in before passing to Petkovic who cuts back but the ball is cleared by the Belgian defence.
Double substitution for Belgium. Carrasco and Dendoncker are off. Tielemans and Doku are in. Meanwhile, Canadian skipper beats Moroccan goalkeeper but Bounou but his header strikes the bar before the ball bounces on the goal line. Johnston’s header off the rebound goes over the bar. Morocco stays ahead of Canada at 2-1.
Roberto Martinez is set to make more changes. Tielemans and Doku ready to step onto the pitch.
Petkovic with a cross to Modric who makes his way into the Belgian box before hitting the volley which is stopped by a diving Courtois.
Yellow card shown to Dendoncker for a challenge on Kovacic who was looking to launch a Croatian counter-attack.
Double substitution for Croatia. Petkovic and Pasalic replace Livaja and Kramaric.
Yet another chance for Lukaku after a brilliant effort from KdB to keep the ball in before setting up the Belgian striker for the header. Somehow, Lukaku sends the header over the bar.
OFF THE POST!!!! Lukaku with a glorious opportunity to put the Red Devils in front as the goal was at his mercy after Livakovic saved a shot from Carrasco in a one-on-one situation. However, Lukaku hits the post and the ball goes across the face of the goal.
And the change has been made. Thorgan Hazard comes on for Trossard.
Thorgan Hazard is about to come on as a sub as he receives instruction from coach Roberto Martinez.
COURTOIS SAVES!!! The Belgian goalkeeper keeping his team alive as he keeps out a curling shot from Modric from inside the box.
Sosa with a cross from the left, it misses everyone but Kramaric keeps it in play before it could go out for a Belgium throw-in. Courtois forced to make a save after a grounded strike from Brozovic from the edge of the box.
De Bruyne with an attempt but the Manchester City player is unable to keep his balance intact inside the Croatian box and as a result, the ball goes flying over the bar.
COURTOIS SAVES!!!! Kovacic with a curling shot from the left inside the Belgium box but it was straight at Courtois who plamed it behind for a corner. Shortly, long-range shot from Sosa but it is well over the bar.
Lukaku registers a shot on target but it is a weak header at the far post and Livakovic gathers the ball easily.
Corner for Belgium as Gvardiol clears a Kevin De Bruyne cross at the near post as Lukaku was waiting in the middle.
Second half is underway! Belgium has made one change: Romelu Lukaku comes on as a substitute for Dries Mertens.
The half-time whistle has been blown. As things stand, Morocco is going through to the round of 16 as the group topper with Croatia in second place. Belgium simply has to beat Croatia in order to continue its stay in Qatar. Big 45 minutes coming up. Stay tuned!
Croatia comes close to scoring the opening goal as Kramaric puts in a cross into the Belgian box from the right, Perisic makes a run in the middle and tries to head it in but does not get any contact whatsoever. The half ends with a volley from Juranovic going wide.
Foul on Kovacic by Dendoncker. Belgians are clearly frustrated. Meanwhile, Morocco seemed to have taken a 3-1 lead against Canada but the goal has been ruled offside.
Modric tries to lob the Belgian defender and put Kramaric through on the right wing but the ball goes out for Belgium throw-in.
Four minutes of added time.
Long-range effort from Sosa from the edge of the Belgian box but gets underneath the ball just a little bit more than he would have liked. Blazes it over the bar.
Meanwhile, Belgium has just wasted probably its best chance as Dendoncker takes the ball inside the box from the right, cuts it back for Mertens at the near post but his touch sends the ball across the face of the goal before being cleared away.
Update from Morocco vs Canada: Morocco’s lead has been reduced to 2-1 after an own goal from Nayef Aguerd. Not the way you would want to score the tournament’s 100th goal.
Aerial ball from Belgium but it is just a bit too much for Trossard who makes the run into the Croatian box. Goal kick for Croatia.
Free kick to Croatia after Witsel’s foul on Brozovic near the center line.
Modric dispossessed near the center-line. However, Belgian fails to make use of the opportunity while charging towards the Croatian box as Perisic puts in a great defending effort on the edge of his own box.
Carrasco chips in a cross from the left inside the Croatian box but it is headed away at the far post by a play in the red-and-white chequered jersey.
Brozovic shot from the edge of the box is blocked. Moments later, Modric puts in a cross from the left, Livaja heads it but it goes over the bar as the Croatian played failed to position himself perfectly.
Patient play from Belgium near the Croatian box, looking for a way through. Mertens sends in a cross from the left but it ends up in the Red Devils losing possession.
Possession stats after one-third of the match being played: Croatia - 49%, Belgium - 43%, Neither team in control - 8%
Corner for Croatia. Modric with the delivery, Witsel heads it out.
Mertens takes the ball inside the Croatian box from the left before laying it up for Witsel on the edge of the box. Witsel’s long-range effort is blocked. With Morocco cruising against Canada, Belgium has to win tonight. A draw will not be enough.
Update from Morocco vs Canada: Youssef En Nesyri doubles the lead for the African nation!
Juranovic with a run down the right wing before putting the cross in. However, no Croatian player could get a proper contact on the ball.
Belgium breathes a sigh of relief as the Penalty has been ruled out after a VAR check due to offside play from Lovren. Another VAR controversy which will be talked about in some detail.
PENALTY TO CROATIA!!! It was a free-kick for Croatia. Modric sent it into the Belgium box. In the effort to clear it, Carrasco ended up fouling Kramaric. However, there is a VAR check for possible offside.
Kevin De Bruyne with a blistering run down the middle before putting Mertens through on the left but he sends the ball over the bar.
Mertens hits the corner kick which is headed away by a Croatian player on the edge of the box.
Much better from Belgium. Mertens with a beautiful cross from the right finds Carrasco at the far post whose shot is blocked behind by Juranovic for a Belgium corner.
Carrasco takes the ball into the Croatian box from the left and goes for the shot but it is blocked efficiently by the Croatian defence.
Witsel with a foul. Croatia has a free-kick inside its own half.
Update from Morocco vs Canada - Ziyech puts the African nation ahead in the fourth minute after a blunder from the Canadian goalkeeper. As things stand, Morocco is top of the group!
Aggressive start from Croatia as it controls the ball inside the Belgian box but just fails to find a way through to test Courtois.
KICK OFF!!! Croatia, in its famous red and white chequered jerseys, starts things off. The 2018 runner-up will play from left to right while the Belgians, in their traditional red and black outfit, play from right to left. Perisic with a shot under 10 seconds!!!! Perisic from the left inside the Belgium box goes for the top right corner but the ball goes wide.
8:24PM IST - The two teams step onto the pitch. Time for the national anthems. First up, Croatia, followed by Belgium.
Will Kevin De Bruyne be able to take Belgium through to the round of 16 with an inspiring performance tonight?
Old is gold?
A draw for top-placed Croatia against Belgium will be sufficient to see it through to the knockouts. In case Croatia loses and Canada beats Morocco, the goal difference will decide the second qualifier (either Croatia or Morocco).
Belgium will qualify if it beats Croatia. However, if it’s a draw then Belgium will have to wait for the result of the other game. If Morocco beat or plays out a draw with Canada, Belgium will exit the tournament.
Here’s the Group F points table after two rounds
|Position||Team||Wins||Losses||Draws||Goals Scored||Goals conceded||Goal Difference||Points|
- ⦿ Beat Canada 4-1
- ⦿ Drew 0-0 with Morocco
- ⦿ Beat Saudi Arabia 1-0
- ⦿ Beat Austria 3-1
- ⦿ Beat Denmark 2-1
- ⦿ Lost 0-2 to Morocco
- ⦿ Beat Canada 1-0
- ⦿ Lost 1-2 to Egypt
- ⦿ Lost 0-1 to Netherlands
- ⦿ Beat Wales 2-1
Croatia: Livakovic (GK), Perisic, Lovren, Kovacic, Kramaric, Modric (c), Brozovic, Livaja, Sosa, Gvardiol, Juranovic
Belgium: Courtois (GK), Alderweireld, Dendoncker, Vertonghen, Meunier, Witsel, Castagne, De Bruyne (c), Carrasco, Mertens, Trossard
MATCH PREVIEW (via Reuters)
When Belgium was beaten by France in its 2018 World Cup semifinal there was some grumbling that the better team had lost and the so-called ‘golden generation’ had been robbed of its place in the final against Croatia.
Fast-forward four years and Belgium will get the chance to show what might have been against the Croats in a Group F encounter on Thursday that may lack the prestige of the tournament’s showpiece finale but remains an acutely important game for both sides.
The group is finely balanced.
Croatia is top, level on four points with Morocco and a point clear of Belgium with three, while bottom side Canada’s hopes have already been extinguished.
Belgium, ranked second in the world, must win to guarantee its place in the last 16, while 2018 runner-up Croatia need only a point to ensure it will remain in Qatar beyond the group stage.
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Roberto Martinez’s side has been among the most disappointing of the favourites so far, with a narrow win over Canada and a humbling 2-0 defeat by Morocco leading to questions about whether this generation of Belgian gold has lost its lustre.
This was seemingly the view of playmaker Kevin De Bruyne, who was quoted in an interview with The Guardian dismissing his side’s chances at the tournament because “we’re too old”.
They are certainly not the oldest squad at the tournament, that honour goes to Iran, but there are concerns about the fitness and form of some key stalwarts.
Eden Hazard’s lack of playing time at Real Madrid this season, where he has started only one LaLiga game, has left him searching for match sharpness, while striker Romelu Lukaku, who came on in the 81st minute against Morocco, is another who is not up to speed.
Martinez pointed more to psychological aspects than physical in his post-mortem following their defeat to Morocco.
“We have to stay together now and become stronger. I know this group, we will be ready for Croatia,” he said.
“We haven’t been the best Belgium at this World Cup yet. Today I thought we played with the fear of losing. Without the ball we still work for each other but when we have the ball, we don’t stand out, we are not ourselves. We have to work on that.”
Croatia’s tournament also began with a lifeless performance against Morocco, although the goalless draw provided a platform for it to kick-on against Canada.
It looked far sharper in Sunday’s 4-1 win, with Andrej Kramaric’s double strike dispelling doubts about whether it lacks a cutting edge up front.
A draw would see it over the line but coach Zlatko Dalic ruled out playing for such a scenario.
“We must not accept the option of having only one point to end the match with Belgium,” he said.
“There are no easy games (at the World Cup). Belgium need a win but we will also aim for a win.”