On Thursday, the group favorites in Group F, Belgium, take on Croatia at the Ahmed bin Ali Stadium. The Red Devils will have to try to avoid elimination without Romelu Lukaku in the starting lineup. Here, find out why.
Group F at the 2022 FIFA World Cup is shaping up to be a nail-biter, with Thursday’s match between Croatia and Belgium at the Ahmed bin Ali Stadium likely to decide the fate of both teams. After a dismal goalless draw with Morocco in their opening group game, the Checkered Ones got back on track with a 4-1 win against Canada.
Meanwhile, a 2-0 loss to Morocco last Sunday was a major setback for the Belgians, who were hoping to reach the knockout stage for a fourth consecutive tournament since 2002. Earlier on November 23, Roberto Martinez’s side earned a tough fight. they claimed a 1-0 win over Canada in their group opener thanks to Michy Batshuayi’s ill-advised goal to snap a two-match losing skid.
The Red Devils’ World Cup Chances rest on their ability to beat the 2018 finalists on Thursday. They are currently third in Group F, one point behind Morocco and Luka Modric.
Why is Belgium’s Romelu Lukaku starting on the bench against Croatia?
Since returning to Inter on loan from Chelsea this season, Romelu Lukaku has only featured five times due to injury. He has been out since late October due to a recurring ailment; he didn’t play in Belgium’s opening 1-0 win against Canada and just returned to training with the team on Friday.
This kept him out of action until late October, and while he scored on his return against Viktoria Plzen in the Champions League and made an appearance against Sampdoria, the striker suffered a recurrence, calling into question his chances of making it to the World Cup.
The 29-year-old striker is ahead of plan in his comeback from a thigh injury, but he has yet to be named in Qatar’s starting XI, instead coming off the substitute in the 2-0 loss to Morocco, playing the final 10 minutes of the game. For the deciding clash against Croatia, coach Roberto Martinez has chosen to start Dries Mertens.