Sun | May 19, 2019

Football Fever | Belgium's Lukaku welcomes Brazil challenge

Published:Friday | July 6, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Belgium's Romelu Lukaku gives a thumps up to the journalists during the official press conference at the eve of their quarterfinal match against Brazil at the 2018 soccer World Cup in Kazan, Russia yesterday (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

At a news conference yesterday, Lukaku said Belgium's disappointing experience at the 2016 European Championship showed that nothing should be taken for granted in football and that Brazil will provide a "benchmark" for his team.

"If you want to achieve something, you have to fight for it every time," said Lukaku, who has impressed at the World Cup with four goals and is second in the Golden Boot race, behind England's Harry Kane, with six.

"Everyone was saying you should come in second (in Group G) ... but look at the European Championship when we had the same route as England now, and things went wrong straightaway."

At Euro 2016, heavily fancied Belgium were considered to be on the easier side of the draw to make the final but ended up being knocked out at the quarter-final stage by Wales, which were in their first major competition in nearly 60 years.

With arguably their strongest collection of players ever, from Thibaut Courtois in goal to Kevin De Bruyne in midfield and Eden Hazard and Lukaku up front, Belgium are trying to reach the World Cup semi-finals for the first time since 1986.

Though Belgium and Brazil are evenly matched in terms of quality, coach Roberto Martinez said there's a simple difference between the two teams.

"The difference, is we haven't won a World Cup. It's as simple as that ... . You go into a tournament when you don't have the know-how to win the tournament," Martinez said.

The coach said having Thierry Henry, who was in France's 1998 World Cup-winning squad, among his backroom staff has helped bridge that gap.

"He knows what you feel as a player when you are in that situation, when you see an opportunity, when you have to face the pressure," Martinez said. "His input in that respect has been very important."