Instead, the attacker wanted to send a heartfelt message to a close friend who was in the hospital.
“Chris. Strength, my boy. I love you, ”Lukaku said directly in front of a television camera at the St Petersburg stadium in a mix of English and Dutch, his touching words addressed to Danish player Christian Eriksen.
Lukaku took the field in Belgium’s 3-0 victory over Russia on Saturday shortly after seeing Eriksen, his team-mate at Italian champions Inter Milan, fall to the ground and require urgent medical attention in the match. Denmark against Finland in Copenhagen.
Lukaku was watching the game with the rest of the Belgian team. He said he was crying.
“I was scared, obviously,” he said. “You live strong moments together. I spent more time with him than with my family.
Lukaku said it was “hard to play because my mind was with” Eriksen.
“I hope he is in good health,” he added, “and I dedicate this performance to him. “
The former Manchester United striker didn’t stop at just one goal against Russia. Scoring a second in the 88th minute, Lukaku scored 62 goals in 93 international matches and concluded a comfortable victory which validated the status of Belgium, one of the favorites of Euro 2020.
It was all the more impressive as the Belgians were without playmaker Kevin De Bruyne, who was not deemed ready after minor surgery on a broken nose and orbit, and with captain Eden Hazard who only played the last 19 minutes as a substitute.
Belgium also faced the withdrawal of right winger Timothy Castagne in the 26th minute after facing Russian midfielder Daler Kuzyaev. Belgium coach Roberto Martinez said Castagne suffered a double eye socket fracture and was ruled out from the rest of the tournament.
Castagne substitute Thomas Meunier scored Belgium’s second goal in the 34th minute.
“We looked like a very focused team for 90 minutes,” Martinez said. “The victory will allow us to grow in the tournament as a team. “
While the victory was hardly unexpected – Russia lost to Belgium at home and away in qualifying – the ease with which the Belgians swept the home side was surprising.
Until Lukaku’s first goal in the 10th minute, the atmosphere had been festive among the strongly pro-Russian crowd of 26,264 spectators. Aside from, that is to say just before kick-off, when there was strong taunts around the stadium as the Belgian players got down on their knees.
Music was played during the anti-racism gesture, but the boos were still audible.
Lacking his ideal supporting cast, Lukaku still managed to score in every half, despite receiving a helping hand from the Russian defense.
Andrei Semenov was at fault for the opening goal, missing a shot while trying to erase a cross from the right. The ball fell into the box and Lukaku leapt up, finding the corner with a low finish.
Another mistake, this time from goalkeeper Anton Shunin, allowed Meunier to double the bet. Thorgan Hazard’s cross was parried weakly by Shunin and Meunier slipped his rebound shot into an unguarded net.
Kuzyaev initially played after his clash with Castagne but escaped minutes later, the first of five substitutions – the maximum allowed – made by Russian coach Stanislav Cherchesov in the 63rd minute.
Belgium center-back Jan Vertonghen also suffered a leg injury in the second half, but Martinez said it wasn’t a big deal.
This story has been corrected to show that Castagne’s name is Timothy, not Thomas.
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