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Lukaku stars as Belgium end World Cup preparations in style

Updated June 13, 2018

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BELGIUM’S Romelu Lukaku (third R) scores against Costa Rica during their international friendly at the King Baudouin Stadium—AFP
BELGIUM’S Romelu Lukaku (third R) scores against Costa Rica during their international friendly at the King Baudouin Stadium—AFP

BRUSSELS: A rampant Romelu Lukaku scored twice and set up a third goal as Belgium closed their World Cup preparations in style by demolishing Costa Rica 4-1 while Senegal scored two second-half goals to beat South Korea and end a four-match winless streak on Monday in their final warm-up.

Dries Mertens opened the scoring for the Red Devils before striker Lukaku took his international tally to 36 in 69 matches with a volley and header either side of halftime.

Substitute Michy Batshuayi completed the Belgium scoring in the 64th thanks to a pass from Lukaku.

Eden Hazard tormented Costa Rica with his instant control and darting runs while fellow midfielder Kevin De Bruyne cut through the defense with his trademark incisive passing.

Hazard limped off in the 70th after a couple of tough challenges, but did not appear too badly hurt. Lukaku said after the match Hazard looked fine.

“He got a knock, but that happens to him a lot,” Lukaku said of the midfielder who often endures rough treatment from defenders.

Costa Rica, one of the surprise packages of the last World Cup where they reached the quarter-finals, took a surprise lead at King Baudouin Stadium through a Bryan Ruiz volley, but were outclassed for much of the match.

“We shouldn’t have conceded the goal, it can be tough to score at tournaments,” Mertens said. “But we’ve proved today that we can play very good football.” The pick of the Belgium goals was Lukaku’s second, early in the second half.

Hazard started the move, fed De Bruyne, who threaded a perfectly weighted pass to Nacer Chadli. The midfielder looked up, saw Lukaku and Mertens in the middle, and chipped a cross toward them. Lukaku leapt in front of Mertens to power a header past Keylor Navas.

Belgium were again without centre back Vincent Kompany, who suffered a groin injury just over a week ago in a warm-up against Portugal. Coach Roberto Martinez has given Kompany until the day before Belgium’s opening match in Russia, against Panama next Monday, to prove his fitness.

Belgium also play Tunisia and England in Group ‘G’. England beat Costa Rica 2-0 in another warm-up last week.Costa Rica open their World Cup campaign against Group ‘E’ opponent Serbia before matches with Brazil and Switzerland.

SENEGAL WIN MYSTERY GAME

Senegal reportedly beat South Korea 2-0 in a mystery game played at an Austrian third division ground.

There was confusion around the match, also featuring two Russia-bound sides, which was played behind closed doors at the home of Groedig, a village near Salzburg.

Details of the game were not even available on betting websites, which generally carry results from even the most obscure matches, and there was outrage on social media, especially among those who had placed bets on the outcome.

The match appeared to kick off half an hour late and some media reports said that Senegal won 2-0 after Kim Young-gwon put through his own net and Moussa Konate scored in the 90th minute.

Neither federation, however, had published the result on its website several hours after the end of the match, although the Senegalese website had their team’s starting 11.

FIFA could not immediately be reached to comment on whether the game would be considered a full international.

Published in Dawn, June 13th, 2018

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