Romelu Lukaku: The Belgian goal-machine begins Euros with a bang

The 28-year-old Inter Milan striker continued his hot streak with a double in Euro 2020 opener, reminding Europe of his scoring prowess.

Romelu Lukaku in a file photo. (Credit: [email protected])

Belgium began Euro 2020 proceedings in the manner of a World No.1 side, scoring three goals without reply against Russia on Saturday night. Maintaining a sold shape, Roberto Martinez’s team looked solid in defence, controlled the midfield emphatically and attacked in numbers, causing mayhem in opposition defence. Romelu Lukaku stood out in a team full of global superstars who are all playing significant roles for their respective clubs across Europe. The Inter Milan striker has been leading the line in a commanding fashion for a while now. When he donned the jersey of his national team, he was frequently able to transform his club form into the international stage.

There were many positions in the Belgium team that did not have a guaranteed starter. With several players vying for a starting spot, the one position at the top of the pyramid was secured and there was no competition because Lukaku was the sole occupant. The 28-year-old striker was in excellent form before the start of the tournament and he continued his hot streak with a double in Euro 2020 opener against Russia, reminding Europe of his scoring prowess. In his last 19 matches for Belgium in all competitions, Lukaku has been directly involved in 26 goals – scoring 22 and assisting four.

What did he get right on Saturday?

The former Manchester United striker’s biggest strength has been his physical strength and pace. He is excellent in hold-up play and does not let the opponents bully him. The striker was at it again on Saturday night, particularly in the first half. He was unstoppable on the ball, displaying excellent hold-up play and he was constantly linking up with his teammates in attacking third, maintaining the pressure on the opponent’s defence.

The striker held the ball well under pressure when surrounded by Russian players. He managed to use his physical strength to maximum ability, shielding the ball in tight situations. His dribbling skills came in handy as he kept moving with the ball forward, allowing his teammates to make runs ahead of him.

In Saint Petersburg, he capped an excellent night of work with two well-taken goals. Russia got off to a poor start when Andrei Semenov failed to deal with a cross by Dries Mertens. The ball fell to Lukaku, who raced away and fired his shot into the bottom corner to give Belgium the lead in 10 minutes. Two minutes from time, Lukaku turned in Thomas Meunier’s pass into the net to score his second and his country’s third of the night. Meunier had himself got on the score sheet, scoring Belgium’s second of the night in the first half.

A kind gesture

Fans were won over not only by the goals he scored on the night, but also by a kind gesture of support by Lukaku. After scoring his opening goal, Lukaku ran towards the corner flag as his Belgium teammates rushed near him, but he made them wait and went over to the cameras to deliver a message to his club teammate Christian Eriksen. He shouted “Chris, Chris, stay strong – I love you” into a pitchside camera before joining his teammates in the celebration for the goal.

Lukaku was among the many who wished Eriksen a speedy recovery after he collapsed on the pitch. Earlier, the Inter Milan midfielder was given CPR on the field after collapsing during Denmark’s Euro 2020 opening match against Finland on Saturday as he went to take a throw-in. After the match, the Belgian striker revealed how scared he was with the entire ordeal.

“I cried a lot because I was scared, obviously. You live strong moments together. I spent more time with him (Eriksen) than with my family. My thoughts are with him, his girlfriend, his two kids and his family,” Lukaku told the media at the end of the 90 minutes.

A look back

Often criticised for his first touch, Lukaku has improved his ball control significantly in recent years. It was the one area in which he was primarily criticised by the English media while playing in the Premier League, and quite unfairly so. Despite scoring numerous goals, the Belgian was never given his due credit during his time at Old Trafford, and he was no longer guaranteed a starting spot.

It was one of the reasons behind his departure. After scoring 42 goals in 96 games for the Red Devils, he moved to San Siro and joined the revolution under Antonio Conte. Lukaku became a fan favourite instantly, scoring goals for fun. He helped Inter finish second in Serie A and reach the Europa League final in his first season. The striker then played another starring role in helping Inter win the league title for the first time since 2010 in the recently concluded season.

In two seasons, the Belgian has scored a staggering 64 goals in 95 games across all competitions for Inter Milan. It begs the question as to why Manchester United let go of a prolific striker like Lukaku? United’s loss is Inter’s gain. With the striker at the top of his game, not only his club but also his country, is benefiting from a remarkable scoring streak. He will undoubtedly be in contention for the Golden Boot race in Euro 2020 if he can keep his form going.

Sportslumo Desk

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