The most common scenario in game 3 of the world cup is that there is an abundance of pressure and meaning that lies within and that seems to be the case once again. Croatia who currently sit top of group F with 4 points found their rhythm last game after knocking 4 past Canada after a underwhelming start by the last tournaments finalists as Andrej Kramaric found his shooting boots grabbing a brace to help secure the 3 points. Belgium on the other hand currently sit 3rd in the table with 3 points and desperately need a point or more today to help them advance into the round of 16. A lot can change today in group F, depending on not only this result but a keen eye will be kept on the corresponding game between Morocco and Canada. History most definitely favours the Red Devils in this fixture, with Croatia only winning one of the last five and failing to score more than a goal in any of the games.
Roberto Martinez’s team’s performances have definitely been lackluster thus far and sit very far behind expectations of the 2nd highest ranked team in the world. The people of Belgium will not be filled with confidence as their main man and captain replied “NO CHANCE” when asked if they can succeed and win the tournament, but with that said let’s get this game underway. Croatia are unchanged remaining in the favoured 4-3-3 formation whilst its brand new look for Belgium with a completely fresh front 3 of Yannick Carrasco, Dries Mertens and Leandro Trossard also Andre Onana is replaced by Leander Dendoncker as Belgium switch to three at the back.
1′ The final group game kicks off for these nations in the Ahmad bin Ali stadium, this stadium has seen nine goals in five games so far this tournament so let’s hope for more of the same.
1′ What a chance! within 10 seconds Luka Modric plays the ball with the signature outside of the boot pass straight to Ivan Perisic who takes it on the outside of the full-back and fires it just wide of the right post.
3′ Belgium are really struggling here in the first few minutes as they fail to get the ball outside their own half after being put under constant pressure by the checkered ones.
5′ Belgium are starting to get numbers forward and look more promising as a attacking threat but the mix of youth and veterans of the Croatian defence manage to intercept and grab possession of the ball once again.
7′ Axel Witsel tries to put the pressure on inter Milan’s Marcelo Brozovic but in doing so impedes his man and gives away a free kick. This is definitely a more threatening and higher tempo we’ve seen from the red devils in the tournament so far.
10′ Josip Juranovic plays Dries Mertens onside who then drives into the box from the right hand side and puts in a promising ball across the fa e of the goal but Juranovic makes up for his unawareness and blocks the shot from Yannick Carrasco
13′ Belgium mount a promising counter attack as Kevin De Bruyne is at the heart of it, driving through the centre and plays the right ball to Mertens who looks to bend it round Dominik Livakovic but mis hits it and it ends up well off target.Embed from Getty Images
15′ PENALTY! Anthony Taylor wastes no time and points to the spot as Carrasco tries to clear the ball whilst scrambling in the box and by doing so swipes at Kramaric
17′ There’s been a slight delay in the stadium as a VAR check is now taking place for a possible offside. This makes no sense to the players here as VAR isn’t usually used for the referee to check offside but is done by technology. VAR in the headlines once again and all for the wrong reasons!
18′ NO PENALTY! The penalty for Croatia is overturned as the Belgium touchline are allowed to breathe and feel relief whilst it’s the opposite for the Croatians, Modric who was ready to take the penalty is now heavily confused and questions the referee’s decision. Hopefully one day we can make sense of VAR and look for any bit of consistency…Embed from Getty Images
21′ Timothy Castagne does well to hold off Kramaric down the right flank after perisic tries to find his partner but it fails to lead to anything successful.
25′ Carrasco cuts inside and offloads to Witsel who stands on the edge off the box. he lines a shot up but its immediately blocked by the Croatian defence. The Atletico Madrid player grabs his 130th cap for his nation today, very impressive.
29′ Juranovic has had a lively start as he dummy’s the ball to allow it to fall for Modric and raids behind Castagne but the move is halted as the linesman shows his flag.
31′ The game has looked very slow so far especially for Belgium and if they want any chance of going through today then they need to buck up their ideas and find a way through to break down this very formidable defence.
35′ Mertens needs to be more careful on the ball, he’s managed to lose possession one too many times today by either being too sloppy or lethargic on the ball and his passes lack any sort of venom or intent.
37′ The Croatian crowd start to find their voices as Perisic makes a brilliant double interception and starts a counter attack to search for the opening goal in this game. is this the start of the high intensity match we were looking for?
39′ Roberto Martinez’s will surely look to the bench sooner rather than alter as the last two games have been won by the main man Romelu Lukaku who hasn’t started a game yet after coming back from his injury.Embed from Getty Images
42′ Dendoncker charges forward and interlinks with Thomas Meunier on the right hand side. He then tries to find Mertens with a searching ball but it deflects off Josko Gvardiol and bounces across the face of the goal.
45′ The electronic board is raised and shows that there will be four minutes added on to the first half of this fixture. A poor and lethargic half to both of these nation’s standards and they will both definitely look to raise their game in the second half.
45+2′ Belgium are starting to look more lively on the attack with a promising ball floated into the centre of the Croatian’s 6- yard box but Perisic is there to head the ball away from danger.
45+4 Juranovic fires over the bar after the ball is failed to be cleared by any of the Belgium’s back line but the ball falls to the Croatian right back but is unable to open his national team goal tally.
HALF TIME- The very bleak and boring first half comes to an end as both teams fail to have a shot on target. Croatia will remain in the round of 16 if the game finishes like this as Morocco are 2-1 up and currently sit at the top of the group. Belgium will need to win the game now and this should mean the age will open up and create a much more exciting affair between the two golden ages of both teams. We thought we may have seen the quickest goal in world cup history after Perisic fired wide after 8 seconds, this set the game up to look like a very exciting encounter but that quickly changed. Its all to play for in the second half in a straight shootout between the two teams to see who will face any team from group E. 23 of the 42 games so far have been 0-0 at half time but only 5 remained the same at full time, let’s hope this isn’t number 6.
46′ The second half is underway as Lukaku makes his way onto the pitch to replace the very Uninspiring Mertens. Belgium will need to play this second half like a game of chess by not leaving all up top and forgetting the attacking threat of Croatia.
49′ The first 4 or 5 minutes of the second half seem to have more excitement built in to them than the whole of the first half as Lukaku heads the first shot on target, meanwhile Croatia create a clever attack as Courtois is forced into action for the first time today.
51′ De Bruyne is starting to show his class as he twists and turns to create a gap and allows himself to get a short off with his left foot but he scuffs it of target. This is definitely a more lively start from the reds but keeping this tempo up will be key for them this half.
54′ Thibaut Courtois is called into action once again as a rain of shots come his way, the first being from Brozovic but seem to be very comfortable for the Real Madrid man.Embed from Getty Images
55′ The game has definitely opened up but mostly in Croatia’s favour as they’re the team that look more potent and likely to score the opener. There has already been 4 shots on target in the first 10 minutes of this half after seeing 0 in the 45 of the first half.
59′ SUBSTITUTION- Brighton’s Leandro Trossard makes his way off the pitch to allow Thorgan Hazard to make his 47th cap for Belgium.
60′ OFF THE POST! By some miracle it is still 0-0, De Bruyne starts the attack and makes a sweet pass to Carrasco who has his low driven effort saved. The ball then rebounds and as the Croatian defenders scramble around the box to clear it falls to Lukaku who smashes the post and falls wide. Surely they wont get another chance like that!Embed from Getty Images
62′ Another golden chance for Lukaku as the striker places a free header over the bar. De Bruyne has really found himself in the second half as he keeps the play alive along the left flank, he then finds the time to swing in a cross that look discouraging but is flicked away from the goalkeepers hands by Lovren. The ball falls to the one man you want it to but he fails to take advantage of a gleaming gift as it remains 0-0.
64′ SUBSTITUTION- Double substitution for Croatia as they look to get back into this game with fresh legs to keep up with the extreme chances that Belgium have created thus far.
66′ The referee shows his first yellow card of the game. Its shown to the red corner as Leander Dendoncker catches Mateo Kovacic with a lunge. Luckily yellow cards aren’t as important as yesterdays drama in group C.
69′ De Bruyne is once again involved in the action as he angles a strike towards goal after Meunier finds him by running down the right flank, but Livakovic makes a crucial stop by getting across his goal.
72′ SUBSTITUTION- Belgium take their turn in making a double change, especially focusing on the midfield and Youri Tielemans and Jeremy Doku make their way onto the pitch to see if they can turn the tide of this match.
75′ Perisic looks lively down the left once again as he works the ball into the middle after escaping two challenges. The ball finds no one he was looking for and Belgium are able to clear away to safety.
78′ Another chance missed for Belgium as Jan Vertonghen manages to meet the ball delivered by Hazard, but he watches as the ball makes its way over the bar. There are claims of a deflection and Vertonghen is furious to see the referee is not interested one bit.
81′ The tempo seems to be slowing down here which will definitely favour the Croatians, they still only need a point to make their way into the round of 16.Embed from Getty Images
84′ The ball is cleared once again from Croatia’s box, as Doku finds himself on the left flank with plenty of room to attack and has options but instead looks for the cross. Lovren matches it and clears it away with a powerful header. 5 minutes remain of the 90 and Belgium will need a lot more than this if they wish to progress any further.
87′ SUBSTITUTION- Belgium make their fifth and final substitute today to find any type of way to grab the first goal of the game and secure a place in the knockouts.
90′ Saved on the line! Lukaku is in the mix of the action once again and it’s yet to go in his favour in front of the goal. Hazard puts in an inviting ball and Lovren fails to get rid. Lukaku fails to show his striker instincts and doesn’t anticipate any mistake but instead just allows the ball to strike his chest. Livakovic then swiftly makes his way to the ball and Lukaku watches in despair as the ball nestles into the goalkeeper’s hands.Embed from Getty Images
90′ 4 minutes have been added on by the referee as Belgium fans start to drop their heads in disappointment. The red devils have 4 minutes to score otherwise the exit the tournament.
90+2′ SUBSTITUTION- Kovacic makes his way to the bench in the dying embassies of this intense encounter
90+2′ What brilliant challenge by a contender for man of the match. The 20 year old Gvardiol makes a crucial clearance as the ball from Doku enters the box and looks to fall to Lukaku’s feet but its knocked away and Croatia can reset once again.
90+4 FULL TIME- Belgium make a shock exit from the Qatar world cup as Croatia finish in second place to Morocco who top the group.
After a very mundane first half performance from both sides came to an end, anything exciting in the second half would instantly make it the more entertaining half. Excitement is exactly what we go although it remained 0-0, the second half included end to end action, brilliant saves, last ditch tackles and golden opportunities missed. But it was one man with all the chances and that was second half substitute Romelu Lukaku who, with his quality should of been able to make the breakthrough. A very frustrating night for Belgium as Croatia held firm at the back and had their fair share of chances but were also unable to find the back of the net. A special mention to the young man, Gvardiol who came to his nations rescue a countless amount of time and showed a great amount of fight and spirit at such a young age. Croatia will now face any team from group E as its all to play for there, but for now they will celebrate making it out of a very tough group.Embed from Getty Images