Europe, Tickets, World Cup

Belgium Reach Euro 2020 Knockout Stages

Lukaku Belgium

Romelu Lukaku celebrated his 100th Belgium cap with his 67th international goal in a comfortable win over the Czech Republic in World Cup qualifying.

The Chelsea striker raced onto a Hans Vanaken through ball to score with a first-time finish from the edge of the box. Timing his run to a tee, he darted down the inside right channel to collect Vanaken’s pass. Opening up his body he shaped to bend the ball inside Tomas Vaclik’s far post but instead lifted it high into the top corner

The game was over four minutes before the break, Youri Tielemans and Vanaken combining to tee up Eden Hazard for his first international goal since November 2019. Alexis Saelemaekers would add a third just after the hour, both of the earlier scorers teeing him up with one touch flicks that put him in position to sidefoot the ball past substitute goalkeeper Jindrik Stanek.

Lukaku is the sixth Belgian to win 100 caps, although he is still well behind current team-mate Jan Vertonghen’s record of 132 (and counting).

‘I think he is a living iconic figure of Belgian football. One hundred caps, 66 goals, at his age. He has a phenomenal attitude,’ said Belgian manager Roberto Martinez.

‘I hope he can go onto 125 or maybe 150 caps. Sometimes you take for granted what we have.

‘These players don’t come often. I want to give him a big thank you for the commitment he has given the national team over the years.’

Lukaku, who rejoined Chelsea last month in a £98 million deal from Inter Milan, seemed emotional as he considered the landmark.

‘I feel very fortunate to be in this position. To be in this generation of Belgian players. We have a good team, a lot of qualities, a very good mentality,’ he said.

‘It’s a very proud moment for me and my family to be added to this list of players who have reached a hundred caps.

‘I hope the next generation understand playing for this Belgium national team is not something you take lightly. You really try to perform and put Belgian football on the map. I am very happy to be in this situation.’

Hazard is Belgium’s second top scorer ever with 33 goals, less than half of Lukaku’s total.

Lukaku was also booked which means he will miss Wednesday’s game with Belarus in Russia – and can instead return to London now.

Belgium top Group E on 13 points from five games, six points clear of the second-placed Czechs. Wales, on six points, have two games in hand though.

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