Sports Burden falling on Lukaku to lead Belgium to Euro 2020 title
Lukaku back in the first League
The Belgian attacker Romelu Lukaku is well gone to carry out his comeback in the English championship. © Panoramic Romelu Lukaku Inter Milan After two years spent in Serie A, Romelu Lukaku would be about to find the Premier League. According to the Guardian daily, the brilliant Belgian striker is likely to join Chelsea. The London club, where he has already made a passage seven years ago, would work forcing him to Stamford Bridge.
ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) — Barrel-chested and with braids in his hair, Romelu Lukaku was already looking the part at international level at the tender age of 17 when he scored his first goals for Belgium in a match at Russia in 2010.
It was the way Lukaku took his goals that really marked him out as a star of the future. One was nothing more than a tap-in after a defensive blunder but he was in the right place to capitalize, while the other saw him use his body strength to shrug off a defender and steer home a finish.
More than a decade later and, in one sense, nothing has changed.
Lukaku again scored two goals at Russia on Saturday, with the origins of the goals in the 3-0 win eerily similar to those of 11 years ago.
Euro 2020: Belgium-Croatia, a preparation match between favorites?
© Panoramic Third and finalists of the last World Cup, Belgian and Croats have necessarily great ambitions at the EURO 2020. Three years after their tremendous journey at the Russian world, the two selections have been on the continuity. Same coaches, same frames in position Since 2016, Spanish Roberto Martinez has passed Belgium from Simple Outsider to favorite. First in FIFA ranking, red devils rely on executives already present in 2018.
Yet this time the stage and surroundings were different. This was no friendly, like in Voronezh in 2010. This was the team's first match of a European Championship, in St. Petersburg with the eyes of the world on him.
Doesn’t matter to Lukaku, a player seemingly born to score goals. A player who treats every game as if it’s his last. A player whose work ethic, and those hours and hours of watching video clips of top strikers like Didier Drogba and Samuel Eto’o that he stored in his own DVD library, is paying off.
Forget Eden Hazard and even forget Kevin De Bruyne. It’s Lukaku — not just a lethal scorer but now a leader and a role model — on whom the burden is falling to lead Belgium to its first ever title in a major tournament.
Lukaku was in tears in Belgium’s dressing room only a couple of hours before the game against Russia after watching his teammate at Inter Milan — Denmark midfielder Christian Eriksen — collapse to the ground against Finland in Copenhagen and require CPR from medical staff before regaining consciousness.
Boost for Belgium as De Bruyne set to join squad after undergoing minor surgery
The Blues talisman has undergone an operation on his fractured eye socket and will join his international colleagues on MondayThe 29-year-old lasted just an hour of a European showpiece in Porto before being forced from the field following a collision with Antonio Rudiger.
“It was really tough to get my mind together,” said the striker, who. “It’s the first time I’ve been through this as a football player with a teammate of mine.”
Lukaku then faced the loud jeers of a heavily pro-Russian crowd while taking a knee along with his Belgium teammates before kickoff.
Gallery: 20 unforgettable Euro moments (Espresso)
Put simply, Lukaku was not short of motivation on Saturday and he delivered like he almost always does for Belgium.
That’s 62 goals in 93 appearances for his country, and he is still only 28.
With major fitness concerns for Hazard and Axel Witsel, and another mainstay in De Bruyne not yet ready to play because of recent facial injuries, Lukaku has arguably become Belgium’s most important player.
“He’s reached a new level on the pitch,” Belgium coach Roberto Martinez said. “Lukaku has always known how to score goals, but now he’s improved with the decisions he makes and the awareness of his own ability. This is the best version of Lukaku I’ve ever seen.”
Who will win Euro 2021? Odds, betting favorites, expert picks & more to know
Sporting News gives a run down of the odds and betting favorites for this year's Euro 2021 championship and gives advice on which teams and prop bets could pan out ahead of the tournament.Five years ago in 2016, Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal were able to take home their first title. It marked their second appearance in a Euro Final, and they were first to win the tournament after its expansion to 24 teams.
Martinez has described Lukaku as the “complete striker” and his all-round game — his movement, his link-up play, the way he holds the ball up and occupies defenders — has improved considerably. As has his first touch, which was regarded as his biggest weakness during his underwhelming time at Manchester United from 2017-19.
Moving to Inter and working under Antonio Conte for the last two seasons has really brought the best out of Lukaku, who led the team to the Italian league title this season with 24 goals and 11 assists.
Manchester City and Chelsea — the two Champions League finalists last month — are on the look-out for strikers in the offseason. And while Harry Kane and Erling Haaland appear to be the favorites, the two clubs might just want to switch their attention to Lukaku, a player with unfinished business in England.
Being top scorer at Euro 2020, and leading Belgium to the title, would really raise his appeal.
He could hardly have made a better start.
More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Steve Douglas is at https://twitter.com/sdouglas80
Steve Douglas, The Associated Press
Can Ronaldo's Portugal qualify for Round of 16 if they finish third? Euro 2020 knockout qualification scenarios explained! .
How many third-placed teams qualify for the knockouts? Will head-to-head or goal difference count? Goal explainsSix teams have so far clinched qualification for the Round of 16 - Italy, Wales, Belgium, Denmark, Netherlands and Austria. 10 remaining spots in the Round of 16 are still up for grabs with numerous giants still fighting it out to make it out of the group stages.