World Cup: Belgium impress in final warm-up but Eden Hazard limps off
Romelu Lukaku hits two as the group G favourites beat Costa Rica 4-1
Belgium 4 Costa Rica 1
Modern football is all about “taking the positives” and so from an England perspective the only glimmer of good news from Belgium’s 4-1 thrashing of Costa Rica last night was the sight of Eden Hazard hobbling down the tunnel.
The Chelsea frontman limped off in the final quarter in Brussels after a hefty challenge. But unfortunately for those Three Lions fans hoping Belgium might now have to do without their tricky talisman, the injury doesn’t appear serious enough to keep him from playing at the World Cup.
“Eden is OK. He had a little trouble, but it’s nothing to worry about,” said Belgium manager Roberto Martinez at the post-match press conference. “At the end he just came off because he had a little bit of a dead leg, a little bit of a knock on his leg.”
Martinez added that he “really enjoyed his performance. He was sharp and strong, he was majestic.”
So was another Belgian who plies his trade in England. Romelu Lukaku, the Manchester United striker, scored either side of half-time after the visitors had taken the lead through Bryan Ruiz. The first was a crisp volley and the second a sharp header as Lukaku took his international tally to 13 goals in his last nine outings.
“We will still progress before the match against Panama and we will give 120% against them,” said Lukaku. “We will continue to make progress later.”
England, who beat Costa Rica 2-0 last week, meet Belgium in the final game of group G on 28 June. Judging by last night’s performance, the Red Devils will be strong favourites to win the encounter and finish top of the pool - assuming they don’t slip up against Panama and Tunisia.
Belgium’s win against Costa Rica - which also included goals from Dries Mertens and Michy Batshuayi - stretches their unbeaten run to 18 matches and their first opponents in the World Cup are Panama on Monday.
Martinez promised that there will be no complacency from his boys against the Central American underdogs.
“Maybe Panama will get inspiration from what Costa Rica did in 2014 in Brazil,” he said, a reference to their unexpected run to the quarter-final. “There’s no fear in the performances of Concacaf teams. They are quite happy to trust each other on the pitch. If we are not a team in difficult moments during the game these teams can really hurt you.”
Defender Vincent Kompany was again missing for Belgium after he suffered a groin injury last week against Portugal. Martinez will give the Manchester City captain until the day before the Panama clash to prove his fitness for the World Cup.
Belgium World Cup fixtures
- 18 June: vs. Panama at Fisht Stadium, Sochi (4pm, BBC)
- 23 June: vs. Tunisia at Spartak Stadium, Moscow (1pm, BBC)
- 28 June: vs. England at Kaliningrad Stadium, Kaliningrad (7pm, ITV)