Croatia Advances After Draw Vs. Belgium, Near Misses Haunt Romelu Lukaku


After perhaps the most riveting 0-0 draw of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Croatia is advancing to the knockout stage and Belgium is heading home.

Croatia, the 2018 World Cup runner-up, finishes with five points in Group F after a win against Canada and draws against Belgium and Morocco.

Belgium, the 2018 World Cup third-place finisher, concludes the tournament with four points after beating Canada, losing to Morocco and drawing with Croatia.

Morocco (seven points) won Group F after defeating Canada on Thursday.

Croatia and Belgium played a relatively uneventful first half. The biggest moment came in the 15th minute, when Croatia was initially awarded a penalty kick before being ruled offside in a VAR review.

Heading into halftime scoreless, neither side had a shot on target.

Action picked up almost immediately in the second half, with each squad getting numerous scoring opportunities.

Romelu Lukaku, Belgium’s all-time leading goal scorer, came in as a substitute to begin the second half. He narrowly missed a header in the 49th minute, then had a shot ring off the inside of the post in the 60th minute.

Moments later in the 62nd minute, Lukaku missed a header off a cross in what appeared to be an open net.

Croatia fought back in the 68th minute, when Luka Modrić nearly scored before a diving save by Thibaut Courtois — the 2018 Golden Glove winner.

In the final minutes, Lukaku — who else? — had two more prime scoring chances that slipped away.

The 29-year-old striker almost scored in the 87th and 90th minutes. First, he was unable to tap in a right-footed shot just in front of the goalkeeper.

Then, in the most devastating miss of them all, Lukaku received a cross inside the six-yard box but he misjudged the flight of the ball. It hit him in the chest, when a connection with the head would’ve been an easy goal with the empty net in front of him.

Croatia, by the thinnest of margins, survives and advances to the knockout stage. They’ll face the winner of Group E — either Spain, Japan or Costa Rica — in the round of 16 on Monday, Dec. 5.

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