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Home   /   Belgium 0-0 Croatia – Belgium face early exit: As it happened

(Subedited by Riley Finch)

Welcome to a live blog of Belgium and Croatia’s last group stage match in group F.

A lot on the line in this clash of titans, with Belgium’s campaign hanging by a thread, knowing that they need a win to give them the best possible chance of making it to the knockout rounds.

Croatia meanwhile are in a comfier position sitting top of the group, but their own qualification isn’t solidified yet either.

By Edward Rourke and Lewis Pettman

Roberto Martinez needed to make some big changes for this match after their disappointing defeat against Morocco, and he has.

Captain Eden Hazard is dropped and replaced by Leandro Trossard, and Kevin De Bruyne drops to a deeper midfield role. Dries Mertens makes his first start of the tournament, likely to play up front.

1′ Kick-off! We are underway at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium.

1′ Croatia start fast. Luka Modric picks the ball up from kick off in a deep position, he plays a long ball over the top which finds Ivan Perisic in behind. He controls the ball beautifully before cutting in on his dangerous right foot, unleashing a fearsome shot which travels just wide of the right-post with power. Worrying for Belgium how easily they were cut open right from the beginning.

3′ The early signs are that this is going to be an end to end game. It’s very open in the middle of the park and there’s plenty of spaces opening up in the final third for both teams.

8′ Croatia beginning to control possession towards the end of the first 10 minutes, and when Belgium break on the counter there seems to be space every time. This could be the game plan for Martinez’s team.

11′ First meaningful opportunity for Belgium. De Bruyne receives the ball in space in midfield and offloads the ball to the tricky Trossard, who drives with the ball past a couple players before playing it to Mertens on the right. He picks his head up and drills a low cross across the box which finds a stretching Yannick Carrasco. All he can do is transition it back onto his right foot, but his shot is saved by Dominik Livakovic

13′ More danger signs for Croatia. De Bruyne has been a problem so far and they give him space again. This time he has runners to his right and left and he opts for Mertens, who takes on a shot first time that sails over the bar just on the edge of the box.

15′ PENALTY! Croatia have a penalty after Carrasco clumsily swipes Andrej Kramaric’s leg in the box

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16′ VAR: Hang on just a second. The referee is going over to the monitor after being advised to by the VAR team.

18′ Decision: No Penalty. Belgium breathe a sigh of relief as the penalty decision is overturned. Dejan Lovren was offside in the build-up, so the penalty no longer stands. It was by the width of a shoulder.

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22′ News fills the stadium of Morocco’s second goal in their game against Canada. This makes them likely to progress, putting all the emphasis on the result of this match. It’s likely to be the winner of this one who goes through with them. A draw, however, will send Croatia through at the expense of Belgium.

25′ The pace of the game has slowed a little bit since the VAR decision. There’s less pace in the midfield and Belgium seem content to knock the ball about comfortably in their own half.

30′ For all of Belgium’s possession, Croatia have retracted into a very structured unit that appear difficult to break down. It may take a moment of brilliance to break the deadlock.

33′ The first chance in a while falls to Croatia. Marcelo Brozovic finds himself on the edge of the box and lets fly with a left footed shot. It doesn’t make it far before being blocked by a Belgium defender.

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35′ Carrasco clips a delicate ball into the box from the left wing. It’s put into a dangerous area but there aren’t enough red shirts in the middle to attack it, so it’s cleared away by Lovren.

39′ This game has really petered out in a disappointing way after an exciting opening 15 minutes or so. Beginning to feel like a game of attrition that could be decided by a goal or two.

40′ News of a goal in the other game makes things a bit more complicated. Canada have reduced the deficit to make it 2-1…

44′ One observation from this half has been Belgium’s changed formation. They’ve abandoned their trademark three at the back for a backline of four. This could be to utilise Belgium’s superior attack in favour of an extra forward player, but I can’t say it’s paid off so far, nor has it made any significant difference.

45′ 4 minutes of additional time at the end of the half.

48′ Belgium look to take the lead right at the end with Carrasco bursting down the left side. He gets his cross in but its once again thwarted by Croatian head.

49′ Half Time 0-0. Goalless at the break in a game that started in explosive fashion; open midfield, chances and controversy made up most of the opening 20 minutes or so, but after the penalty decision was overturned the intensity severely dropped off. Neither team has looked their best but if things remain as they are then Croatia will be the happier of the sides, as they will go through if this game ends as a draw.

45′ We are back underway at the Ahmad Bin Ali stadium as Belgium kick us off.

46′ Half time change for Belgium which you’d have to say is needed with Mertens off and record goal scorer Romelu Lukaku on.

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48′ Corner for Belgium to be taken by De Bruyne.

49′ The ball bounces around the box and eventually finds Lukaku at the back post whose tame header is caught by Livakovic.

50′ Croatia have a chance this time after Josko Gvardiol plays through Mateo Kovacic whose shot is well saved by Thibaut Courtois for a Croatia corner which comes to nothing.

54′ Another Croatia chance as Kovacic lays off the ball perfectly to Brozovic who drills his shot low and hard and is parried away by Courtois.

55′ Modric cuts inside onto his left shot with a stinging shot which is a comfortable hit for Courtois. Croatia are applying pressure now to the Red Devils.

57′ Another Belgium sub Thorgan Hazard is coming on for Trossard.

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60′ A huge chance for Lukaku!! Carrasco is 1-1 with Livakovic and the ball falls to Lukaku with an open goal and he hits the post you have to wonder if a fully up and running Lukaku would score that, the answer is probably yes.

63′ He’s done it again! De Bruyne crosses the ball in which goes over the rushing Livakovic right onto Lukaku’s head and he misses an open goal again. Luckily for Lukaku the ball had gone out, but this is worrying signs for the Belgium striker.

64′ Substitution for Croatia with Kramaric and Marko Livaja coming off for former Chelsea loanee Mario Pasalic and striker Bruno Petkovic.

66′ Yellow card for Leander Dendoncker as he cynically hacks down Kovacic and receives a yellow card for his troubles.

68′ Another chance for Croatia as Modric receives the ball on the half volley bit hits his shot straight out Courtois.

72′ Double substitution for Belgium with Youri Tielemans and Jeremy Doku, making his world cup debut, are on for Carrasco and Dendoncker.

77′ The substitutions have killed this game for both teams. As it stands Belgium will be packing their bags and leaving at the group stage.

78′ Corner for Belgium after Borna Sosa clears the ball. Thorgan Hazard curls the ball in but its headed over by Jan Vertonghen.

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81′ Kovacic plays a beautiful ball through to Josip Juranovic who tries to cut the ball back into the box but can’t find a away.

84′ A nervous back pass from Gvardiol nearly ends up costing the centre back but he gets away with it.

85′ Belgium look flat and are barely making any overlaps or runs at all apart from Jeremy Doku who is the only Belgium player making runs and trying anything for Belgium.

87′ The second Hazard brother, Eden, is coming on to a chorus of boos from the Belgium fans with Thomas Meunier coming off.

89′ Third time is not the charm Lukaku could have had a hattrick! The ball is crossed in for another tap in by Thorgan Hazard after lovely skill from Jeremy Doku and Lukaku decided to chest it down rather than tap the ball into an empty net and Livakovic collects. How has he not scored today?

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90′ There will be 4 minutes of added time.

90′ One final change for Croatia as Kovacic is off for Lovro Majer

90+4 Full time Belgium 0-0 Croatia

Belgium are out!!! What was a tight first half with Croatia slightly edging it after a Croatia penalty was overturned after Dejan Lovren was controversially offside.

The main talking point of the game will be Romelu Lukaku who came on at half time and missed three clear cut chances which would have put his side into the next round of the world cup, but it just wasn’t his or Belgium’s day.

Belgium’s performance just like the rest of their performances in this world cup have been flat and underwhelming and the team ranked number 2 in the world are out.

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May 2024