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02nd Jul 2021

The three stages of Romelu Lukaku’s unbelievable miss just yards from the net

Lee Costello

The game was in the balance, sitting at 2-1 in favour of the Italians, but Belgium were on the attack and looking dangerous.

Romelu Lukaku has been on scintillating form this tournament and had already gotten on the score sheet when he slotted home Belgium’s penalty in the first half.

So there is nobody in the whole country that the Belgians would have wanted the ball to fall to more, just yards in front of the net, than the Inter-Millan striker.

But it didn’t go as planned…

Step one: The block

 (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)

In the first sequence of this bizarre series of events, Kevin De Bruyne squares a lovely ball across the box, right into the feet of Lukaku who looked to have done everything right. He didn’t lean back, he let the ball go across him first and he kept it low, hitting it first time so the defender didn’t have a chance.

However, unbelievably, just yards away from the net, he hit the back of Leonardo Spinazzola.

Step two: The rebound

 (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

All was not lost as the ball clinked off the defender and it fell straight back to the former Manchester United striker. He literally performed a one-two with the opposition to set himself up for a free shot as the Italian defence were all still mid-fall from the first attempt.

The problem was, Lukaku was mid-fall as well and even with the ball at his feet, all of his weight had fallen forward and he couldn’t make contact.

Step three: The fall

(Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

They say the bigger you are, the harder you fall, and you don’t get bigger than the big Belgian up front. However, he seemed to take an age to hit the ground, with two nations ready to pass out from holding their breaths, but hit the ground he did.

The ball ricocheted out of play and the Italian defence celebrated like they had just scored at the other end.

Winning international games as close as this comes down to the most minute, marginal and precise details. One second earlier or later and the game could have been equalised.

Alas, Belgium can only look back at what could have been, as Italy held out to win the game 2-1 and will advance to the semi-finals.