Croatia advanced to the round of 16 at Belgium’s expense after a scoreless draw in Qatar, which saw Belgium eliminated from the World Cup at the group stage.
With just one victory and one goal in three games, Roberto Martinez’s team, which is ranked second in the world and finished third in Russia four years ago, has had a poor campaign.
Even though they were aware that a win was required to advance to the round of 16, they put up another lacklustre performance against Croatia.
Substitute Romelu Lukaku had multiple opportunities to score in the second half, but he was unable to do so, dooming his nation.
After recovery from injury and getting subbed in, Lukaku attempted to regain his composure, hitting the post from in front of goal, shooting wide from a good position, and reacting slowly when the ball struck him in the six-yard box in stoppage time.
Croatia, who finished second in Group F and was a finalist in 2018, earned the point required to advance as the group’s top finisher after Morocco defeated Canada 2-1.
In the round of 16, Zlatko Dalic’s group will play the group’s victor, presently Spain.
At the end of the game, Belgium players collapsed to the ground as their fans behind the goal formally cheered them off the field.
Dries Mertens was substituted by Romelu Lukaku at halftime. Lukaku entered the match with purpose and quickly infused his team with vitality and direction.
Though each of his missed chances in the second half caused audible groans from the crowd, they proved expensive, as the on-loan Inter Milan striker punched the dugout in anger following the game’s conclusion.
Despite not being particularly convincing, Croatia did enough to ensure their advancement. Their most dangerous moment was a first-half penalty that was disallowed by VAR due to an offside violation in the buildup.
They did, though, appear to be a level below what they did to get to the final in Russia four years ago, and their post-qualifying celebrations were very quiet.