Martinez allays worries over Hazard substitution

Belgium's Michy Batshuayi (right) celebrates scoring their fourth goal with Romelu Lukaku, who earlier scored a brace himself. The Belgian attack flourished in a 4-1 friendly win over Costa Rica.
Belgium's Michy Batshuayi (right) celebrates scoring their fourth goal with Romelu Lukaku, who earlier scored a brace himself. The Belgian attack flourished in a 4-1 friendly win over Costa Rica.PHOTO: REUTERS

BRUSSELS • Belgium coach Roberto Martinez played down injury fears over Eden Hazard after having his game ended prematurely in the final World Cup warm-up 4-1 win over Costa Rica on Monday.

"Eden is OK. He had a little trouble, but it's nothing to worry about," said the 44-year-old Spaniard.

"At the end, he just came off because he had a little bit of a dead leg, a little bit of a knock on his leg.

"I really enjoyed his performance. He was sharp and strong, he was majestic."

Belgium have much to be optimistic about. Besides Hazard's blistering form, a powerful brace from striker Romelu Lukaku meant that the Belgians extended their unbeaten streak to 19 matches.

Also on target were Dries Mertens and Michy Batshuayi after the visitors had taken a surprise 1-0 lead through Bryan Ruiz.

Belgium are hoping they can finally do justice to their golden generation tag in Russia.

They disappointed in previous outings at major tournaments, losing in the quarter-finals to Argentina at the last World Cup in Brazil and then at the same stage to Wales at Euro 2016, both under Marc Wilmots.

Monday's showing would have made for unpleasant viewing for their Group G rivals England, Panama and Tunisia.

Lukaku told Belgian TV: "I think we have made progress. We did not lose, it's important. We scored a lot of goals tonight.

"We will still progress before the opening match against Panama (on Monday) and we will give 120 per cent against them. We will continue to make progress later."

There was confusion around Monday's other friendly, also featuring two Russia-bound sides in Senegal and South Korea, which was played behind closed doors at the home of Groedig, a village near Salzburg.

Details of the game were not even available on betting websites, which generally carry results from even the most obscure matches.

The match appeared to kick off half an hour late and some media reports said that Senegal won 2-0 after Kim Young Gwon put through his own net and Moussa Konate scored a penalty in the 90th minute. Fifa could not immediately be reached to comment on whether the game would be considered a full international.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 13, 2018, with the headline 'Martinez allays worries over Hazard substitution'. Print Edition | Subscribe