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Martínez to make late decision on Lukaku’s World Cup chances

Inter Milan striker Romelu Lukaku has started just three games this season and remains doubtful for Belgium’s World Cup campaign.

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Euro 2020 - Group B - Finland v Belgium - Saint Petersburg Stadium, Saint Petersburg, Russia - June 21, 2021 Belgium's Romelu Lukaku in action with Finland's Paulus Arajuuri Pool via REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov/File Photo
Maxim ShemetovPool via REUTERS

Roberto Martínez will make a last-minute decision on whether to include injured Inter Milan striker Romelu Lukaku in Belgium’s World Cup squad. Lukaku has been plagued by injuries since returning to Inter from Chelsea on a season-long loan in June, featuring in only three of their 19 matches since the season started.

Hamstring and ankle injuries

The 29-year-old made his return from a thigh problem with substitute appearances against Viktoria Plzen and Sampdoria late last month, but he has since suffered a setback. Simone Inzaghi confirmed on Saturday that Lukaku will not play for Inter again before the World Cup, which begins for Belgium against Egypt on 23 November 23.

The Red Devils then face Canada on 27 November and Morocco four days later, and Martínez is hoping the striker will at least be available for the last of those matches. Ahead of announcing his 26-man squad on Thursday, Martínez told L’Équipe: “The decision will be made just before we announce the list. It will relate to the three first-round matches. If he is fit to participate in one of those, he is a player we want in our team. If he cannot, he will not be retained.”

Lukaku is Belgium’s all-time leading scorer with 68 goals in 102 games, including five goals in four matches during his side’s successful qualifying campaign for Qatar 2022. However, the Chelsea loanee’s fitness remains a big concern for Martínez, who is heading into his third major tournament as Belgium boss.

“The management of the muscle injury is very personal,” he said. “We are seeing signs of improvement, but we will wait until just before the announcement to give us more time. We have to assess the improvement in his tissues to help estimate the timeline for his recovery. If he’s fit by 1 December, he’ll be with us.”


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