Croatia 1-2 Belgium Post Match Review

Everton’s Romelu Lukaku scored twice as Belgium reached their first World Cup finals since 2002. The on-loan striker put away two excellent individual goals in the first half to earn a 2-1 victory in Croatia.

The result means the Group A leaders, Belgium, are uncatchable with 25 points from nine matches before their final qualifying game at home to Wales on Tuesday.

Lukaku, on loan from Chelsea, had several thousand Belgian fans dancing on the half-empty terraces at the Maksimir stadium after scoring in the 15th and 38th minutes.

The second-half substitute Niko Kranjcar grabbed a late goal for the Croatians, who have 17 points and are assured of a runners-up finish, but were jeered by their fans after a lacklustre performance.

Croatia needed a win to have any chance of overhauling Belgium but their coach, the former Derby County defender Igor Stimac, deployed a conservative 4-5-1 formation with the wingers Ivan Perisic and Ivan Rakitic operating behind the lone striker Mario Mandzukic.

The visitors took the lead after Perisic gave the ball away and Steven Defour fed Lukaku, who raced clear of the centre-backs, Vedran Corluka and Dejan Lovren, before rounding the goalkeeper, Stipe Pletikosa.

Pletikosa then kept out a close-range header from Marouane Fellaini but could not prevent Lukaku scoring a dazzling second goal.

Having superbly dinked the ball over Lovren inside his own half, the 20-year-old galloped past Mateo Kovacic, rounded the advancing Pletikosa and walked the ball into the net as bewildered home fans started leaving the ground in droves.

Belgium almost scored a third goal in the 77th minute when Pletikosa denied Fellaini from three metres after a darting run and cross by Eden Hazard.

Kranjcar pulled one back for Croatia by volleying a fierce shot into the roof of the net from 14 metres after Thibaut Courtois parried a close-range effort by Nikola Kalinic and Daniel van Buyten could only partially clear the rebound.

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