“What you’re going to see here is center forward play at its very best,” says the color commentator on ESPN, and he’s certainly not wrong.
Romelu Lukaku’s goal in Thursday night’s UEFA Nations League semifinal between Belgium and France was indeed of the highest calibre, from the initial movement and positioning, through the dummied turn to lose his marker, to the absolutely unstoppable finish from a tight angle into the roof of the net.
It’s picture perfect.
Lukaku’s goal, his 51st in his last 51 international appearances, gave Belgium a 2-0 half-time lead. All they had to do was see that out, but France turned it around quite spectacularly in the second half, scoring two goals in quick succession around the hour-mark — Benzema from among a sea of defenders, then Mbappé from the spot after Griezmann was kicked — then winning it late on with a powerful shot by Theo Hernández after Lukaku had a potential late winner chalked off for offside.
With N’Golo Kanté sidelined, Lukaku was the only (current) Chelsea player to start this match. Michy Batshuayi came on for the final few minutes. Eden Hazard, Thibaut Courtois, and Kevin De Bruyne all started for Belgium, as did Jules Koundé for France.
Lukaku said that Belgium were hoping to use these two games at the Nations League final four as warm-up for next year’s World Cup, which they are aiming to win as the crowning (and first real) achievement of their golden generation. Looks like they have some work to do as yet!