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Belgium 1-0 Croatia: Player ratings as Lukaku fuels Red Devils' triumph | International Friendlies 2021

Belgium vs Croatia
Belgium vs Croatia
Nived Zenith
FEATURED WRITER

Belgium returned to winning ways ahead of Euro 2020 with a 1-0 triumph over Croatia at the King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels on Monday (IST).

The Red Devils, who were held to a draw by Greece in their last outing, made six changes to the line-up which paid in dividends.

However, it was Croatia who came quickly off the blocks and dominated the opening exchanges of the game. Roberto Martinez's men eventually grew in confidence as the game progressed and found the only goal of the game in the 38th minute.

The visitors struggled to deal with a corner and Marcelo Brozovic's attempted flick to clear the ball away fell into the path of Romelu Lukaku, who stabbed home from close range to find his 60th goal for Belgium.

Zlatko Dalic introduced a host of changes to his team after the hour mark and it lifted Croatia. Riding on the energy of the fresh legs, substitute Josip Brekalo attempted to steal a late equalizer but was denied by Thibaut Courtois, who made an excellent diving save to help Belgium come away with the win.

Without further delay, let's take a closer look at how each player from both sides fared during the international friendly ahead of the Euros:


Belgium

Thibaut Courtois - 8/10

The Real Madrid star returned to the line-up and proved he is the first-choice shot-stopper for Belgium. Courtois had excellent command of his area and was equally adept at dealing with set-pieces. A save to deny Josip Brekalo in second-half stoppage time also stood out significantly.

Toby Alderweireld - 8/10

From start to finish, Alderweireld hardly put a foot wrong. The Tottenham Hotspur centre-back, who looked comfortable in possession, showed eagerness to push forward and be involved in the build-up. None of this came at the cost of losing his awareness and positioning as he made a few vital interceptions too.

Jason Denayer - 7/10

Bruno Petkovic's struggles helped Denayer settle down easily at the heart of the three-man defense for Belgium. There was hardly ever any press to deal with and the defender thrived on the luxury. Whenever called into action, he was no nonsense either. Some vital blocks and clearances must've surely been noted by his manager.

Jan Vertonghen - 7/10

The 34-year-old was deployed on the right side of the three-man defense and looked comfortable throughout. Vertonghen was excellent in the air while defending always remained open to receiving a pass and building from the back. Hooked at half-time only to give Vermaelen some game time.

Timothy Castagne - 7/10

The wing-back had to fend off some early pressure when Croatia came off the blocks quicker than Belgium. However, Castagne recovered handsomely and ended up being more proactive on the right flank. The cross to Carrasco after the interval was excellent, but the winger failed to do justice with the finish.

Youri Tielemans - 8/10

Sublime. The Leicester City midfielder ensured that the Kevin De Bruyne-sized gap in midfield wasn't obvious. Tielemans was always eager to get on the ball and make things happen. Notably, there were some excellent defence-splitting passes. The one to feed Thorgan Hazard late on in the game was the pick of the lot, an absolute treat.

Leander Dendoncker - 7/10

The Wolves midfielder produced a confident display on the night. Dendoncker was deployed to sit back and guard the defense in the 3-4-3 system and carried out his job without a fuss. There is a certain bite and tenacity to him as well. If there are indeed concerns over Axel Witsel's fitness levels, the Belgian already has someone to take over his role instead.

Nacer Chadli - 6/10

The 31-year-old relished every opportunity to move forward from left wing-back against Croatia. Although Chadli did not end up making any substantial contribution in the final third, his presence was felt all throughout and forced his counterparts on the back foot.

Dries Mertens - 6/10

The diminutive winger was not at the peak of his powers on the night. Mertens did not leave a lasting impression on the flanks and was slightly overshadowed by the overlaps made by Castagne. However, it was his deep cross that eventually headed back into Lukaku's path for the only goal.

Romelu Lukaku - 9/10

The marksman proved to be the match-winner for Belgium. Apart from scoring the only goal of the game, Lukaku was by far the best player on the pitch too. The Inter Milan striker did exceedingly well to hold the ball up and showed strength to shake off defenders. If not for the cross-bar, Lukaku would have scored earlier with a remarkable turn and strike from just outside the area. There was a late header on target too.

Yannick Carrasco - 6/10

The Atletico Madrid forward worked tirelessly, but his end product seemed to let him down. Carrasco was a constant thorn down the left and got himself into some dangerous areas. Unable to punish Croatia though, some wayward finishing and poor decision-making robbed him off a goal.


Substitutes (Belgium)

Thomas Vermaelen - 6/10

The aging Vermaelen managed to get some valuable minutes under his belt after replacing Vertonghen at half-time. Although he managed to come away unscathed, the defender might need to do a lot more to stake a permanent claim for a regular berth in the line-up for the Euros.

Hans Vanaken - 5/10

Not an awful lot of impact after replacing Dries Mertens in the 68th minute. Still, probably did everything he was asked to by the manager.

Thorgan Hazard - 5/10

Came on in place of Nacer Chadli in the 71st minute. There was an unselfish attempt to square the ball across goal after being played in by an exquisite through ball from Tielemans, but it was blocked.

Jeremy Doku - N/A

Replaced Yannick Carrasco in the 82nd minute.

Eden Hazard - N/A

Replaced Leander Dendoncker in the 82nd minute.

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Edited by Sankalp Srivastava
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