Lukaku, Hazard pummel Tunisia

Romelu Lukaku scoring his second goal past Tunisia goalkeeper Farouk Ben Mustapha to give Belgium a 3-1 lead in their World Cup 2018 Group G match in Moscow yesterday.
Romelu Lukaku scoring his second goal past Tunisia goalkeeper Farouk Ben Mustapha to give Belgium a 3-1 lead in their World Cup 2018 Group G match in Moscow yesterday.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Braces by Belgium star duo plus Batshuayi's late strike virtually assure them of a last-16 berth

GROUP G


Belgium 5

Tunisia 2


MOSCOW • There will be tougher tests for Belgium, starting with England on Thursday. But they showed they are arguably the most convincing team at the World Cup so far with the 5-2 demolition of Tunisia yesterday.

Two goals each for Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard and one for Michy Batshuayi put Belgium in command of World Cup Group G and underlined their status as one of the tournament favourites.

After racking up two wins and a goal difference of plus-six, Belgium are virtually assured of advancing to the last 16.

Holders Germany, five-time champions Brazil, France, Argentina and Spain have all not been able to match Belgium's free-scoring exploits, but Roberto Martinez's men will be aware that they will need to tighten up at the back.

  • 1st

    • Belgium have scored five goals in a single World Cup match for the first time.

    • Romelu Lukaku is the first player to score two or more goals in consecutive World Cup appearances since Diego Maradona scored a brace against England and Belgium in 1986.

Lukaku warned rivals that this World Cup has yet to see the best of Belgium. "We can still do better," said the forward, whose four goals in two games set a Belgian record for scoring in a single World Cup finals and matches the current tournament leading scorer, Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo.

"It is important we did better than in the previous match," he said, recalling the 3-0 defeat of Panama. "That is what we did. Against England we still have to do better."

Belgium were much the better team from the off, but they were seriously aided by poor defending.

Syam Ben Youssef needlessly crashed into Hazard to give away a sixth-minute penalty, which the captain converted. Ali Maaloul then gave away possession after 16 minutes to allow Dries Mertens to roll the ball into the path of Lukaku to plant it low into the corner.

Tunisia hit back two minutes later through Dylan Bronn as Belgium's own shaky defending was exposed at times but a misplaced Tunisian pass enabled Thomas Meunier to feed Lukaku to make it 3-1.

An inch-perfect Kevin de Bruyne pass sent Hazard clear for his second six minutes after the restart.

Substitute Batshuayi then had a great last 20 minutes, before finally scoring in the 90th minute.

Belgium were on cruise-control, with Hazard (calf) and Lukaku (ankle) taken off, though Tunisia had the last word as Wahbi Khazri scored in stoppage time.

"It's not easy to score the amount of goals we did in two games," said Martinez, who promised "major changes against England".

"We were in full flow going forward, we looked really sharp."

Belgium took 23 shots, with 12 finding the target. They have now won 11 of their 12 competitive matches under Martinez, scoring 51 goals and conceding eight.

Should that unbeaten run snap against England, on three points, and if pointless Panama somehow beat England and Tunisia, all three would have six points.

The top two would then be decided on goal difference, though it would need a footballing freak show to stop Martinez's side.

Tunisia, also without a point after two matches having extended their 40-year World Cup winless run to 13 games, are also still in with a theoretical chance of making it on through three points.

"The Belgian team is a superior side," Tunisian coach Nabil Maaloul said.

"We did our best and we will try to improve our performance in the future."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 24, 2018, with the headline 'Lukaku, Hazard pummel Tunisia'. Print Edition | Subscribe