Football

Heartbroken Lukaku could miss Belgium’s opening game in Qatar

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Romelu Lukaku has had a torrid time since returning to Inter Milan this past summer after a frustrating year in England with Chelsea.

Lukaku was a fan-favorite in his first Inter experience before going back to London a year ago. However, the 29-year-old has had a tough time in Italy this time around. His injury issues are increasing as he only played four matches in Serie A this season scoring a goal with a single assist to his name.

Lukaku has had all sorts of issues, from his groin to a persistent knee issue has has left him frustrated for some time now. The latest setback came two days before the final group stage game in the Champions League against Bayern when he injured his thigh. As Milan paper Gazzetta delo Sport informs the public, the injury is serious enough for Lukaku to miss the final two games for his club in the Italian league, against Bologna and Atalanta.

Instead, he already traveled back to Belgium where he will be taken care of by his nation’s physicians. The timeline of his return is not yet clear, but it seems likely he will miss Belgium’s opening match in Qatar against Canada. The other participants of that group are World Cup finalists Croatia, and one of the best African sides, Morocco.

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How will Belgium adjust without its best striker?

Romelu Lukaku is Belgium’s all-time most efficient striker with 68 goals in 102 matches played. His strength has always been the physical part of his game. He is fast and powerful which makes it extremely hard for the opposing defences to adjust. But, as his injury problems continue, his explosiveness will suffer which in turn will make it harder to do what he does best, scoring goals, and making sure his teammates take advantage of his physicality.

Belgium manager Roberto Martinez certainly has options to replace Lukaku. One that comes to mind is another former Chelsea striker, and now of Fenerbahce, Michy Batshuayi, who scored impressive 26 goals in 47 appearances for his country. A veteran forward Dries Mertens is another interesting option, but a player that could get a nod, and possibly a big opportunity is 22-year-old Lois Openda. He has been terrific for surprise packages Lens in Ligue 1 this season, who hold second place in France behind PSG. Openda is his team’s top scorer with seven goals in 13 matches.

If those options fail to work out for Martinez, he might decide to put his hopes in hands of some stellar wing players like Eden Hazard or AC Milan’s Charles De Ketelaere. Another player who is worth mentioning is Brighton’s Leandro Trossard who has been in stunning form this season in the Premier League scoring seven goals in 12 matches. He already played for Belgium on 21 occasions scoring five goals.

Belgium’s Group F encounter against Canada at the World Cup is scheduled for November 23rd, their second match is against Morocco four days later, while the final game against Croatia will commence on December 1st.

Belgium is currently the number two team in the world according to FIFA rankings, and is certainly one of the favorites for the World Cup title.