The collapse of the Golden generation came to light on Thurday. Belgium were eliminated from the World Cup after a scoreless tie with Croatia, who moved on from second place in Group F. Romelu Lukaku missed a couple of chances that could have changed the story but should not be held responsible for Belgium's World Cup elimination, according to teammate Timothy Castagne.
During a stormy week that saw reports of internal strife within the team and practically all of the attention of the footballing world focused on them, Belgium's performance was turbulent in all the wrong ways.
The all-time leading scorer for Belgium, Romelu Lukaku, had only played a small amount of the tournament owing to injuries before joining the game at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium after halftime.
The striker, who is on loan from Chelsea to Inter Milan, spurned three excellent opportunities late on when a goal would have advanced his team to the round of 16.
And although it was anticipated that a draw would be sufficient for them to advance before the game started, Luka Modric and Ivan Perisic's rapid kick-off routine almost lost them the game in the first minute. That somewhat reflected the tale of the game; Belgium was less sharp than Croatia and never seemed to pose a persistent danger.
After the break, the speed increased slightly, but it wasn't quite enough given that Morocco was in front of Canada. When Romelu Lukaku came off the bench and squandered as many as four fantastic opportunities, the first two of which were open nets, he painted a gloomy picture of Belgium's reality. With each wasted one, elimination became more likely.
Castagne told reporters, "I wouldn't say he's the anti-hero because he's there for the chances, he also produces them, he gives, and he keeps the ball”.
"Perhaps we don't have such opportunities if he's not there. We can't really hold him responsible because he gave it his all and tried. It doesn't go in unless it goes in”.
Belgium earned four points in Group F, finishing third after defeating Canada 1-0 and falling to Morocco 2-0.
The only goal of the competition was scored by Michy Batshuayi against the Canadians, but he was not used on Thursday.
We're out of the competition, so of course, I'm disappointed, he added.
"I'm a striker, therefore I would have loved to perform my duty, score goals, and support the squad.
“It’s disappointing to go out like that… Belgium had to play better. I’m not going to say that we don’t deserve to be out, but we should have played better. Everything is disappointing.”
After a lifeless draw with Croatia in the group stages, Roberto Martinez's team was eliminated from Qatar in 2022.