Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard Braces Inspire Belgium Past Tunisia at World Cup

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistJune 23, 2018

Belgium's forward Eden Hazard celebrates his second goal with Belgium's forward Romelu Lukaku during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Belgium and Tunisia at the Spartak Stadium in Moscow on June 23, 2018. (Photo by Yuri CORTEZ / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS        (Photo credit should read YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
YURI CORTEZ/Getty Images

Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard turned on the style for Belgium on Saturday, as they each bagged braces in an emphatic 5-2 win over Tunisia at the FIFA World Cup

A Hazard penalty and a goal from Lukaku gave Belgium a quickfire 2-0 lead, although they were pegged back by a Dylan Bronn header for Tunisia. However, Lukaku restored the two-goal advantage on the stroke of half time with a fine finish, putting him level with Cristiano Ronaldo in the race for the Golden Boot.

After the break Hazard made the game safe with his second of the day. With the clock ticking down, Michy Batshuayi added more gloss to the scoreline with Belgium's fifth. Tunisia skipper Wahbi Khazri scored a late consolation for his side.

Belgium now top Group G on six points. England have the chance to move level with the Red Devils on Sunday, when they face minnows Panama.


Ronaldo Still the Main Man, But Lukaku Getting Closer

Belgium's forward Romelu Lukaku scores a goal during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Belgium and Tunisia at the Spartak Stadium in Moscow on June 23, 2018. (Photo by Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOB

Ahead of this encounter, Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo was out on his own in the race for the Golden Boot at the 2018 World Cup. By half-time, Lukaku was level with him.

After a brace against Panama in the opening game, the Manchester United man continued where he left off. He finished well with his left foot after being played in in the 16th minute, before giving his team breathing room on the stroke of half-time with a dinked right-footed effort:

B/R Football @brfootball

On fire 🔥 https://t.co/Jn1aTSCdBL

B/R Football @brfootball

…and he’s only 25 🙌🇧🇪 https://t.co/nHGZflUlcG

As noted by Samuel Luckhurst of the Manchester Evening News, he's in red-hot form for his country at the moment:

Samuel Luckhurst @samuelluckhurst

Romelu Lukaku's Belgium games since joining #mufc: 🇬🇮: ⚽️⚽️⚽️ 🇬🇷: ⚽️ 🇨🇾: ⚽️ 🇲🇽: ⚽️⚽️ 🇯🇵: ⚽️ 🇸🇦: ⚽️⚽️ 🇵🇹: ❌ 🇪🇬: ⚽️ 🇨🇷: ⚽️⚽️ 🇵🇦: ⚽️⚽️ 🇹🇳: ⚽️

Meanwhile, Kristan Heneage praised the dynamic forward's intelligent movement in a stunning first-half performance:

Kristan Heneage @KHeneage

One thing I feel like we don't always talk about with Lukaku is how smart his running can be. His second goal there saw a really quick adjustment at the last minute to facilitate a chance that he finished so calmly.

With the likes of Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Dries Mertens supporting Lukaku, the chances should flow regularly for him throughout the tournament. 

The Belgium No. 9 has showcased the potency in front of goal to fire his nation far in the World Cup. In the knockout stages and the huge games, the challenge will be for Lukaku to continue up this prolific form—something Ronaldo has done so well throughout his career.


World-Class Hazard Will Inspire Deep Belgium Run

TOPSHOT - Belgium's forward Eden Hazard celebrates his second goal during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group G football match between Belgium and Tunisia at the Spartak Stadium in Moscow on June 23, 2018. (Photo by Yuri CORTEZ / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIA
YURI CORTEZ/Getty Images

Lukaku's assault on the Golden Boot will grab the headlines after this game, but the contribution of the imperious Hazard shouldn't be underestimated.

Against Panama, he started poorly and grew into the game. In this match, he was at full tilt from the off, winning the early penalty then calmly converting it. Early in the second half, he latched on to Toby Alderweireld's long pass, rounded the 'keeper and finished with aplomb.

As noted by Fox Sports' Keith Costigan, the manner in which Hazard and Lukaku linked up bodes well for Belgium:

keith costigan @KeithCostigan

Love that Hazard attacks the space left by Lukaku. 2 each for them and a bit of a message being sent by Belgium here.

Up top, the Red Devils have Lukaku to stick the ball in the back of the net, and in midfield, De Bruyne controls the tempo of matches. Hazard, as he did here, is the man who knits everything together.

It appears the Belgium captain is growing into the tournament. Should Hazard continue to improve, he'll take his nation a long way.


Defensive Cracks Will Ultimately Cost Belgium

While there was much to marvel at from an attacking perspective from Belgium, they did showcase weaknesses defensively that will have stronger nations rubbing their hands together. 

After surging into a 2-0 lead, the Red Devils switched off immediately from a set piece, from which Bronn headed home.

There was clear complacency from the Red Devils:

OptaJoe @OptaJoe

109 - There were just 109 seconds between Belgium's second goal and Tunisia pulling one back through Dylan Bronn. Glimmer. #BELTUN #TUN #WorldCup https://t.co/VODYzbQyyQ

In general play, there were also moments when Tunisia did carve out good openings, only for their lack of quality to let them down.

Former Wales international Danny Gabbidon believes they will be caught out in the channels:

Daniel Gabbidon @Gabbidon35

Belgium looking very good going forward but a good team will expose their vulnerabilities down the flanks.

The big concern for Martinez's Belgium side has always been whether they can find the balance between defence and attack, something they've not had to do against two weak outfits so far.

While they were excellent here, they must shore up defensively if they are going to go all the way. Against stronger opponents, their attack will be better contained and the holes in their 3-4-3 setup better exploited.


What's next?

The four teams finish their group stage matches on Thursday, with Belgium and England meeting in what should be a showdown to see who tops the group.

Tunisia, meanwhile, at least have a chance to earn their first World Cup win since 1978; they meet Panama in their final contest. This is Los Canaleros' first appearance in the tournament.