Lukaku 'ahead of where he should be' – Martinez pleased with Belgium striker's progress

By Sports Desk November 26, 2022 534

Romelu Lukaku is on course to return to action before the end of the World Cup's group stage, according to Belgium boss Roberto Martinez, though he is unlikely to face Morocco on Sunday.

Lukaku was absent as Belgium overcame a lively Canada side 1-0 on Wednesday, having struggled with a thigh injury since returning to Inter on a season-long loan from Chelsea. 

Michy Batshuayi proved a capable deputy against Canada, scoring the winner and posting a team-high tally of five shots, but Belgium's record goalscorer is making good progress in his recovery.

While Martinez is determined not to rush Lukaku back, he views Thursday's final Group F fixture against Croatia as a realistic target for the 29-year-old's comeback.

"Medically, Romelu was only available for the third game and I think we'll carry on with that, but he's ahead of where he should be," Martinez said at Saturday's pre-match press conference.

"He's trained twice with the group and the signs are very good.

"We need to see how he reacts today and then he's going to have another training session. 

"I don't expect him to be involved tomorrow unless something goes extremely well today, and it'd be a little bit of adaptation to be with the group, [he would not be] 100 per cent at the start. That's where he is. 

"The lineup is important but there are two lineups in this World Cup. Five subs means you have a lineup at the start and a lineup at the end.

"What's important for me is that every player who comes on the pitch has an impact, an understanding and the opportunity to enjoy the World Cup. 

"In the first half against Canada we were very, very, very below par. The second half was an improvement, and it's important that we use our players to help the team depending on how our game goes. 

"If you ask me, the game tomorrow is about controlling and being able to be ourselves until the end. 

"Whoever's going to be on the pitch depends on the moment, how the players are [in training] and how I get the feeling the players are getting ready for the game."

Belgium will seal qualification for the round of 16 if they beat Morocco, and they are also bidding to become the first nation in history to win nine consecutive group games at the World Cup.

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Last modified on Saturday, 26 November 2022 09:12
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