Lukaku will miss Morocco game: Belgium coach Martinez

Romelu Lukaku
Romelu Lukaku is ahead of schedule in his recovery from injury but will not feature against Morocco. File photo: Reuters/Massimo Pinca

Al Rayyan (Qatar): Striker Romelu Lukaku is ahead of schedule in his recovery from injury but will not feature against Morocco in Belgium's second World Cup Group F fixture on Sunday, coach Roberto Martinez confirmed.

Lukaku has played two club games since August due to thigh and hamstring issues, and Martinez is taking a cautious approach towards a player who is key to Belgium’s chances in Qatar.

"Romelu was only ever going to be available for the third game (against Croatia) and we will carry on with that, but he is ahead of where he should be," Martinez told reporters on Saturday.

"He has trained twice now with the group and the signs are very good. We have to see how he reacts today at training. I don’t expect him to be involved (against Morocco), he is still not 100% at this time."

Defender Toby Alderweireld and midfielder Kevin De Bruyne were seen in a heated argument around when to play long balls during Belgium’s lacklustre 1-0 opening victory over Canada. Martinez played down the row and insists there is no rift between the two.

"We should not try to create an issue where there is not one," he said. "You have two experienced players that have played over 70 games together for the national team. They are both winners and they really want to perform well."

Martinez is wary of the threat of Morocco, a team he knows well and with four Belgium-born players in the squad.

"They are a team with a very good mixture between their flair and their quality," he says. "They have players that can create numerical advantages in the wide areas. They are well-organised, disciplined and have a good structure in the middle.

"They go eye-to-eye against anyone. They have an incredible belief."

Belgium drew criticism for their poor display against the Canadians, which was well below the standard they have set in recent years.

But Martinez says they, like other teams in the competition, will improve having not had their usual preparation for a major finals.

"We arrived at the first game with five (training sessions) and that means the team is not ready. We have seen teams start really well (in matches) but then they could not manage the game," he said.

"You will see teams being ready only after three games. They are having to get ready while they are in the tournament and that is dangerous because it can cost you points."

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