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Belgium have been knocked out of the World Cup at the group stage as Croatia progressed at their expense with a goalless draw in Qatar.
Roberto Martinez’s side, who finished third in Russia four years ago and are ranked second in the world, have had a disappointing tournament with just one win and one goal in their three matches.
They produced another lackluster display against Croatia despite knowing victory was necessary to progress to the last 16.
Substitute Romelu Lukaku had numerous chances in the second half but his failure to convert any sealed his country’s fate.
Lukaku, searching for sharpness following injury, hit the post from in front of goal, poked an effort wide when well-placed and reacted too slowly when the ball hit him in the six-yard box in stoppage time.
Croatia, finalists in 2018, got the point they needed to progress from Group F as runners-up, with Morocco taking top spot thanks to a 2-1 win against Canada.
Zlatko Dalic’s side will face the winners of Group E – which is currently Spain – in the last 16.
Belgium players fell to the turf at full-time as their supporters behind the goal politely applauded them off the pitch.
Lukaku, who replaced Dries Mertens at half-time, came into the game with intent and immediately brought energy and purpose to his side.
But his missed opportunities in the second half proved costly, with each one bringing an audible collective groan from the stands and the on-loan Inter Milan striker punched the dugout in frustration after the final whistle.
Croatia were not especially convincing – their most threatening moment was a first-half penalty award being ruled out by VAR because of an offside infringement in the build-up – but did enough to secure progression.
They did however look a level below what they showed to reach the final in Russia four years ago and their celebrations were fairly subdued after scraping through.Follow us on social media