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10th Jul 2018

Romelu Lukaku’s performance against France came in for a lot of criticism

Just the 22 touches all game

Robert Redmond

Belgium are out of the World Cup.

Well, they have to play a third-place playoff on Saturday, but they won’t be world champions. Belgium lost 1-0 to France on Tuesday night in St Petersburg in the first semi-final of the tournament.

It was a frustrating night for Roberto Martinez’s side. After knocking favourites Brazil out of the tournament with an impressive display, they went into the semi-final full of confidence, but couldn’t find a way past a stubborn French team.

France have assembled one of the most talented and exciting squads in world football, but they had to work hard for this victory.

Samuel Umtiti’s goal from a corner gave them the win, and they were happy to play the entire match on the counter-attack.

For some reason, the BBC commentators said that the game would perhaps “open up” when the first goal came. The opposite happened. France retreated and held out for the win.

Umtiti, and particularly Raphael Varane, were excellent at the back for France. They comfortably dealt with the threat of Romelu Lukaku. The Manchester United striker played very well in the win over Brazil, but struggled to make any impact against France. Lukaku had just 22 touches of the ball. No other player who started the match touched the ball less.

In fairness to Lukaku, he was up against two top-class defenders and a defence sitting very deep. He also wasn’t the only Belgian player to disappoint on the night. Kevin De Bruyne wasn’t his brilliant best and Mousa Dembele struggled. Marouane Fellaini was also slow to react when Umtiti scored with a near-post header. Eden Hazard was Belgium’s best player on the night, by far.

However, Lukaku’s performance wasn’t well received by those watching at home.