Lukaku told to forget about Golden Boot
Roberto Martinez made it very clear when asked about any designs that Romelu Lukaku might have on the Golden Boot at Russia 2018 that his priorities should lie elsewhere and, while you could see what Belgium's perennially earnest coach was getting at, there is no question which direction his striker is going.
Sooner or later, with all nods to form and fitness, the expectation is that Lukaku will be a record-breaking goalscorer at international level if he maintains a strike rate that is, all told, nothing short of extraordinary.
At 25, the Belgium striker who faces Tunisia in a Group G second-round game today has 38 international goals from 70 appearances. It is a tally that does not just bear comparison with the great sharpshooters of the modern age, it blows them through the saloon-bar doors.
Last November, still aged 24, Lukaku passed the joint Belgium all-time goalscoring record of 30, set by Bernard Voorhoof in 1940 and equalled by Paul van Himst in 1974. It was a modest mark and Lukaku made his debut aged 17, so was always likely to break it. But in doing so he has set a formidable pace with seven goals since November, most recently two against Panama.
equivalent The Belgian goes into his second game of these finals against Tunisia with a record in international football superior to that of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Wayne Rooney when they were at an equivalent age. Ronaldo had 22 goals in 69 caps at 25 years and 41 days old, Messi had 26 goals from 70 appearances. Rooney had 26 from 68.
"Romelu is not here to be the top goalscorer in the World Cup," Martinez said. "What pleases me is that he is here to do his role for the team. He will score. I know him well from my time at Everton where we spent more on him than any player in the club's history. We saw outstanding quality, not because he was the finished article."
Ronaldo's goal against Morocco took him to 85 and ahead of Ferenc Puskas as the leading European international scorer. This is a World Cup that has seen the return for some of the leading nations to traditional centre-forward - Olivier Giroud for France, Diego Costa for Spain, Mario Mandzukic for Croatia and Lukaku for Belgium. (© Daily Telegraph, London)
Belgium v tTnisia
Where: Spartak Stadium
When: 1.0, live RTé2 and BBC1
Key stats: Four years ago, Belgium won all three of their group games at the World Cup in Brazil before losing in the quarter-finals to Argentina.
- lTunisia were the first African country to win a match at the World Cup when they beat Mexico 3-1 in Rosario, Argentina at the 1978 finals.