While neither Romelu Lukaku or Cristiano Ronaldo scored in Belgium’s 1-0 win over Portugal in the last 16 of Euro 2020, the fact that the Portuguese were dumped out means that Ronaldo’s hopes of winning the Golden Boot hang by a thread. With five goals, Ronaldo is still leading the top scorers charts for now, but Lukaku will be one of the players eager to pinch the accolade out of the 36-year-old’s hands.
There is still time for Lukaku to bag a few more goals in this tournament, and with a mouth-watering quarter-final with Italy on the horizon, it’s the perfect opportunity for the striker to show his worth and claim the coveted honour of being the top scorer at a major international tournament.
But just like Portugal, Italy will prove to be stern opposition for Belgium, with little to separate the sides in the Belgium v Italy betting odds. The goal the Italians conceded in extra time against Austria in the last 16 was the first they had let in since October 2020, and so Lukaku will need to be on top form if he is to increase his tournament goal tally, which currently stands at three.
The Inter Milan striker has rediscovered his best form since moving to the Italian giants from Manchester United, and that good form has transferred over to the international scene. He notched twice in Belgium’s 3-0 win over Russia to kick off their Euro 2020 campaign, and bagged another in the 2-0 win over Finland to cap the group off. A striker of Lukaku’s confidence won’t be too concerned that he didn’t see many clear-cut chances against Portugal, and he’ll be champing at the bit to get going against Italy in Munich.
There’s no doubt that winning the Golden Boot would be a major boon for Lukaku, and it could well act as a springboard for his career, especially if Belgium were to go on and lift the trophy at Wembley on July 11th. To do so will require him and his teammates to really step up to the mark. They were fortunate not to concede to Portugal in the latter stages of the match, and it’s unlikely that Italy will be so profligate with their chances.
But Lukaku’s mere presence in the Belgium team could make all the difference. What Italy sorely lack is a truly world class centre-forward, and as a result they are often forced to rely on goals from other areas. Ciro Immobile has had a decent tournament, and notched two goals himself in the group stage, but his performance against Austria in the last 16 was poor, and the same could be said of Andrea Belotti, who came off the bench to replace him in the second half.
Belgium coach Roberto Martínez will know that if a chance presents it to Lukaku, he is extremely likely to take it, and in a match where both teams are fancied in the UEFA Euro winner odds, where the finest of margins could tilt the game either way, that is a very important asset to have. Along with this group of Belgian players’ attempts to do their own talents justice, Lukaku’s personal quest to silence his critics continues apace, and if he can fire his team to the semi-finals, that quest will come closer to its conclusion.