Romelu Lukaku scored his sixth international goal for Belgium on Monday, rounding Luxembourg goalkeeper Anthony Moris after accepting Marouane Fellaini’s pass and finishing confidently from a tight angle in the third minute.
Then, midway through the first half, he was in prime position to execute a half-volley when a mix-up in the opposing defense saw the ball land at his feet to Moris’ left. A seventh goal.
Finally, the 21-year-old became his country’s first player to score a hat-trick in 13 years following a serving run past two defenders that culminated in a delicate stroke of the ball inside the near post shortly after the restart.
“Solid team performance and a great result with Romelu Lukaku being on fire tonight!” tweeted midfielder Axel Witsel, who played 45 minutes of the 5-1 win before being replaced by Steven Defour at the break.
Belgium manager Marc Wilmots opted to make five changes to start the second half in Genk, but Lukaku wasn’t one of them. With the Chelsea striker (he spent last season on loan at Everton) in search of his treble, and keen to take home the match ball, Wilmots went into the final frame with the 6'3" marksman leading the attack—a decision that will almost certainly pay dividends at the upcoming World Cup.
With Aston Villa striker Christian Benteke unavailable to Belgium through injury, the Red Devils will go only as far as Lukaku takes them in Brazil. And given his showing in Monday’s friendly, that could be some distance.
Wilmots is hardly short of flashy, creative options in the final third, although without an in-form finisher his side could struggle to score goals against Algeria, Russia and South Korea in what is sure to be a cagey Group H.
But by getting Lukaku on a roll against Luxembourg, he goes some way toward ensuring that form, and Belgium could be poised to live up to expectations as a result.
And the expectations are lofty.
Lukaku, however, could be just the man to put his country on his back over the next few weeks. For him, a memorable World Cup almost certainly awaits.