Belgium and Holland win final pre-Euro friendlies


No time to waste: Belgium’s Romelu Lukaku (right) vying for the ball with Croatia’s Domagoj during a friendly match in Brussels. — Reuters

PARIS: Belgium and Holland completed their Euro 2020 preparations with respective wins over Croatia and Georgia.

Belgium, the world’s top-ranked side, beat the 2018 World Cup runners up 1-0 thanks to a first half goal from in-form Romelu Lukaku, fresh from winning the Serie A title with Inter Milan.

Roberto Martinez’s side will be one of the favourites to win what would be their first ever major international trophy and line up in Group B alongside Denmark, Finland and Russia.

In a tight match it was Lukaku, 28, who was the difference between the two sides in a cagey contest, and he was unlucky not to open the scoring in the 31st minute with a wonder goal.

Holding off three Croatia defenders, Lukaku unleashed a curling shot which looked to be heading in before it crashed out off the bar, with Yannick Carrasco’s header on the rebound also thudding onto the woodwork.

However, he gave his side the lead seven minutes later when he pounced following confusion in the Croatia penalty area and lashed home his 60th international goal.

Few clear-cut chances came along after that, but Lukaku should have netted his second of the night with a minute remaining when his close-range header was somehow kept out by Croatia goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic.

The Dutch had an easier time of it with a 3-0 win over Georgia.

Frank de Boer’s team will be aiming to make a big impression at their first major tournament since the 2014 World Cup and play all their Group C matches with Ukraine, Austria and North Macedonia in Amsterdam.

Denmark also go into the tournament on a high after seeing off Bosnia 2-0 in Brondby.

Austria drew 0-0 with Slovakia while Scotland scraped a 1-0 win over 10-man Luxembourg ahead of their first major international tournament appearance for 23 years.

England manager Gareth Southgate was upset with substitute Jordan Henderson for defying team orders as the midfielder decided to take a penalty and missed in the 1-0 win over Romania.

Henderson returned to action for the first time since being sidelined with a groin injury in February by taking the field as a half-time substitute but he denied striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin who won the spot-kick and was expected to take it.

The Liverpool captain saw his shot palmed away by Romania goalkeeper Florin Nita in the 78th minute after Marcus Rashford had netted England’s first penalty 10 minutes earlier before the striker was replaced shortly afterwards.

“We had Marcus Rashford on penalties then James Ward-Prowse but both came off, ” Southgate told ITV.

“We expected Dominic Calvert-Lewin to take it and I was expecting Hendo to go over to him and let him take it. We will pull rank next time.”

Henderson told the BBC: “I was confident but it was a good save. It wasn’t a great penalty but I am not too bothered. It would have been nice to cap the comeback off with a goal.” — Agencies

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