It's safe to say pre-tournament 'dark horses' Belgium are yet to justify the hype at this World Cup. Few of their big names have been able to replicate their club form on the world stage, and although they're now through to the last 16 thanks to two victories in their first two matches, they've been far from convincing.
Romelu Lukaku may have enjoyed a sensational season in the Premier League with Everton, but his showings at this World Cup have yet to inspire.
The 21-year-old looked off the pace in the Red Devils' opener against Algeria, and he picked up where he left off against Russia - he had just 1 shot at goal (blocked), completed 5 passes and won 2 of 5 aerial duels.
Yet his struggles aren't necesarrily all of his own making. Lukaku received a grand total of ZERO passes in the opposition penalty area across Belgium's opening two matches. Although there are questions to be asked about some of the young forward's off-the-ball movement in the final third, the service he's received has also been far from perfect.
Frustratingly for Lukaku, one of Belgian's key creative forces - Eden Hazard - came good after the Everton loanee had been substituted. The former Lille star did superbly to elegantly glide past a defender and tuck a neat pass back to 19-year-old Divock Origi to blast home in the 87th minute. Like Lukaku, Hazard had endured a slow start to the tournament, and coach Marc Wilmots will hope this is the moment things click into gear.
One Belgian player who did perform for the whole 90 minutes was midfielder Axel Witsel. The Zenit midfielder was typically tidy and disciplined, completing all 35 of his passes, keeping things ticking over and allowing the more attack-minded players to do their thing (in theory, at least).
For Russia, their frustrations in front of goal continue. After struggling to make the most of the openings against South Korea (5 attempts on target from 18 efforts), Fabio Capello's troops saw just 3 of 12 shots worry Thibaut Courtois, while just 2 of the 24 crosses they launched into the box found their target. 1 of those 2 centres was met by the head of Aleksandr Kokorin at the end of the first half, but the Dinamo Moscow forward wasted a glorious opportunity by nodding wide.
Facts and figures
- Belgium’s last 5 World Cup goals have come in the final 20 minutes of matches.
- Belgium kept a clean sheet for the 1st time in 8 World Cup fixtures.
- Belgium are unbeaten in 8 World Cup group stage games (W3 D5).
- Belgium scored with their first shot on target.
- Despite coming on as a substitute in the 31st minute, Jan Vertonghen made 5 interceptions. Only 4 players have managed more in a game in this tournament.
- Russia have kept 1 clean sheet in their 8 World Cup matches since the start of the 1994 tournament.
- Axel Witsel completed all 35 of his passes. Only 2 players have completed more passes at 100% accuracy in matches at this tournament.
- All 3 of Belgium’s goals at this tournament have been scored by substitutes.
- There have now been 15 substitute goals at World Cup 2014, as many as there were in the whole of the 2010 edition.
- Belgium have won their opening 2 games at a World Cup for the 3rd time in their last 5 appearances.