It’s last-chance saloon for Belgium’s golden generation as they face Croatia this afternoon needing a result to reach the World Cup knockout stages. Roberto Martinez’s side went into the tournament ranked second in the world by Fifa, but have hugely underwhelmed in Group F up until now.
Croatia, who were runners-up to France at the last World Cup in Russia, can be categorised as accomplished veterans, bolstered by younger stars Josko Gvardiol and Nikola Vlasic. They need just a point against Belgium, while the Red Devils must win to not rely on a helping hand from Canada against Morocco.
Martinez says the pressure of expectation was affecting his players in the first two games, but will not be a problem today. Croatia head coach Zlatko Dalic, agrees, insisting that rumours of Belgium’s demise are greatly exaggerated. We are about to find out for certain in a crunch Group F clash. Follow the game LIVE below with our dedicated match blog!
Croatia 0-0 Belgium, 57 minutes
Borna Sosa continues to find joy marauding up the left for Croatia, working into position to stand up a cross but planting it too close to Thibaut Courtois’s great plate-sized hands.
Croatia 0-0 Belgium, 56 minutes
How much longer until Croatia consider a change? Their midfield dominated proceedings in the first half but the front three have just gone a little quiet.
Belgium are sending for a Hazard – but it’ll be Thorgan rather than captain Eden.
Croatia 0-0 Belgium, 54 minutes
Croatia have come to life, too. Thibaut Courtois is twice forced into low saves to his right, turning away efforts from Marcelo Brozovic and Luka Modric. Comfortable enough for the goalkeeper.
Croatia 0-0 Belgium, 51 minutes
Romelu Lukaku has transformed Belgium’s attacking play. The striker holds the ball up and draws three to him before laying off for Kevin De Bruyne’s, who releases a wayward drive in the vague direction of goal.
Croatia 0-0 Belgium, 49 minutes
This has been much livelier since half time. Mateo Kovacic forces Thibaut Courtois into a sprawling stop after curling for the top corner from 25 yards.
Croatia 0-0 Belgium, 48 minutes
Lukaku is lurking beyond Gvardiol as the defender hooks behind for a corner.
A chance! The set piece is cleared but returned to the back post, but Lukaku’s header is weak and claimed easily by Dominik Livakovic dropping to a knee.
Croatia 0-0 Belgium, 47 minutes
Romelu Lukaku might be short of match fitness but he at least gives Belgium a proper forward focal point.
He nearly turns Josko Gvardiol straight away, but can’t quite gather into his stride cleanly with the ball caught beneath his feet.
Ah, yes – Romelu, we’ve been expecting you.
Lukaku replaces Dries Mertens.
H/T: Croatia 0-0 Belgium
Roberto Martinez must surely think about a half time change. Eden Hazard? Romelu Lukaku? Wout Faes? Anything to enliven a flat performance from Belgium.
H/T: Croatia 0-0 Belgium
The replays of the offside call that chalked off the penalty really aren’t clear – and even the semi-automated graphic show only the tiniest sliver of Dejan Lovren’s shirt in an offside position. It’s right in law and we are using the technology as fully as possible, but is this really benefitting football?