MX23RW : Friday, January 18 04:16:38
Jun 11, 2018 at 7.45pm UK
Costa Rica
Mertens (31'), Lukaku (42', 50'), Batshuayi (64')
FT(HT: 2-1)
Ruiz (24')

Live Commentary: Belgium 4-1 Costa Rica - as it happened

Relive Sports Mole's live text coverage of Belgium's 4-1 win against Costa Rica, as the Red Devils rounded off their World Cup preparations in style.
Live Commentary: Belgium 4-1 Costa Rica - as it happened
© Reuters

Romelu Lukaku scored twice as Belgium recovered from a goal behind to beat Costa Rica 4-1 in their final World Cup warm-up match on Monday evening.

The striker netted either side of half time and set up another for substitute Michy Batshuayi to round off the scoring 25 minutes from time.

Prior to that, Dries Mertens converted from close range to cancel out Bryan Ruiz's goal-of-the-night opener in what proved to be a one-sided match in Brussels.

Relive how the 90 minutes of action unfolded with Sports Mole's live text coverage below.

7.15pmHello and welcome to Sports Mole's live text coverage of the international friendly between Belgium and Costa Rica at the King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels. This is the final warm-up match for both sides before heading to Russia for the World Cup finals, meaning one last chance for the two managers to experiment with their starting lineups.


STARTING XI: Courtois; Alderweireld, Boyata, Vertonghen; Meunier, De Bruyne, Witsel, Carrasco; Mertens, Lukaku, E.Hazard

SUBS: Mignolet, Casteels, Ciman, Dendoncker, Fellaini, Tielemans, Dembele, Chadli, Januzaj, T.Hazard, Batshuayi

7.19pmStarting with a look at the home side, Roberto Martinez appears to have gone with a three-man backline. If that is the case, Jan Vertonghen, Dedryck Boyata and Toby Alderweireld will start across the back - there is notably still no Vincent Kompany, and his World Cup participation is now surely in doubt. Yannick Carrasco and Thomas Meunier will offer width down the flanks, meanwhile, utilised tonight in wing-back roles.

7.21pmThis Belgium side oozes talent throughout, most notably up top where Romelu Lukaku - coming off the back of an impressive enough maiden campaign at Manchester United - is tasked with netting the goals to take his side deep into the finals. With Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard there to supply him, not to mention Dries Mertens out on the right, you have to fancy Lukaku to net a fair few goals in Russia.


STARTING XI: Navas; Gamboa, Acosta, Gonzalez, Oscar Duarte, Oviedo; Bolanos, Tejeda, Borges, Bryan Ruiz; Urena

SUBS: Azofeifa, Calvo, Campbell, Colindres, Guzman, Matarrita, Moreira, Pemberton, Smith, Venegas, Wallace, Waston

7.25pmIf Belgium's formation is best described as a back three, Costa Rica's is more of a flat back five. Bryan Oviedo and Cristian Gamboa, who both boast Premier League experience, will be used at full-back, while Bryan Ruiz and Christian Bolanos will be used slightly further forward on the wings. Interestingly, Oscar Ramirez has decided against using Joel Campbell from the off.

7.27pmRuiz is winning his 110th cap this evening and is going in search of his 24th goal for Los Ticos - not a bad return. Not many goals tend to be scored when the Central Americans are involved, with their last six games seeing just one side score. In fact, only two of Costa Rica's six pre-World Cup friendly matches have seen over 2.5 goals, but this Belgium side certainly know how to find the net.

7.29pmBelgium more than justified their hype in qualifying by winning nine games and drawing one, scoring an incredible 43 goals and conceding just six in the process. Quarter-final defeats in their last two major tournaments, though, including at the hands of Wales at Euro 2016, means that they cannot be considered serious challengers for the World Cup just yet. If four teams have been backed to lift the trophy, the Red Devils are in a pack of five or six others with an outside chance.

7.31pmThere is a sense that it could well be now or never for Martinez's men, as a number of their top talents are either the wrong side of 30 or will be when the next major tournament rolls around. All that raises an obvious question: what constitutes a good World Cup for Belgium? Reaching the quarter-finals is the absolute minimum target, with a nice path to that stage, so a semi-final spot would likely appease supporters.

7.33pmOvercoming one of Brazil or Germany in the quarter-finals will be a major challenge for the Red Devils, though, particularly as they do not have too much experience of facing heavyweight nations over the past couple of years. They may have gone 18 matches without defeat, stretching back to Martinez's first game in charge, but that loss came at the hands of their only major challenger in Spain.

7.35pmThere was also a goalless draw with Portugal in their recent batch of friendlies, and Belgium swatted aside Saudi Arabia 4-0 and Egypt 3-0 to keep their momentum going. The also-rans do no seem to be a problem for Martinez's men; beating the likes of France, Germany, Spain and Brazil may just be a step too far. Before then, though, they must first progress from a group that contains England, Tunisia and Panama.

7.37pmCosta Rica have won just two of their six friendlies since qualifying for Russia 2018, on the other hand, most recently losing 2-0 to England at Elland Road last Thursday. Los Ticos were outclassed at times, and there is a real sense that their ageing squad will fall well short of the levels set four years ago when reaching the quarter-finals. Still, in a group in which second place is wide open, making it to the last-16 stage is an achievable target.

7.39pmCosta Rica won three and drew one of their matches to top their round four qualifying group, before then finishing second to Mexico in the next stage. The biggest news from that section was the fact that the United States missed out at the expense of Panama, with Mexico and Los Ticos now regulars at the quadrennial competition. In the case of the latter, they have taken part in four of the last five instalments.

7.41pmReaching the last eight in 2014 was made all the more incredible when you remember just how tough their group was, placed alongside three former winners in England, Italy and Uruguay. If their recent results are anything to go by, though, with just those solitary wins against Northern Ireland and Scotland, Ramirez's men face a challenge edging out Switzerland and Serbia for second spot behind Brazil.

7.43pmCosta Rica struggle when it comes to scoring goals and lack any real consistency. This may be painting a bleak picture, but the squad is now getting old - it is virtually the same group from four years ago - and they are not quite the unknown quantity that they were in Brazil. This should be a match that Belgium win with a bit left in the tank, so I will back them to come out on top 3-0 tonight.

Belgium manager Roberto Martinez on October 10, 2017© Reuters

1 minKICKOFF! Costa Rica, whose World Cup campaign begins against Serbia on Sunday, get us under way in Brussels. The visitors are showing five changes from their 2-0 defeat to England at Elland Road last week.

3 minThe Central Americans will no doubt look to get plenty of players behind the ball when Belgium are in possession. This could be a match for Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard, geniuses at creating openings, to shine for the hosts.

5 minSHOT! Belgium are unable to full clear a Costa Rica corner and the ball is headed back into the path of Oscar Duarte. The centre-back lacked any real composure and his volleyed shot hit the floor and ended wide of the target.

7 minBLOCK! This is a superb piece of defending from Geancarlo Gonzalez. Belgium exchanged five or six passes in and around the Costa Rica box and Eden Hazard was able to wriggle clear, but his shot from close range was blocked by Gonzalez down low.

9 minThis match is far more open that anticipated. Belgium are looking dangerous, but rather than sitting back the visitors are also probing away high up the field. A chance apiece at either end, and we have played less than 10 minutes here.

11 minPENALTY APPEAL! Lukaku had a penalty appeal rejected a couple of minutes ago after being dragged to the floor. Oscar Duarte definitely had a fair bit of the Belgium striker, but the referee felt that Lukaku went to the ground a little too easily.

13 minCLOSE! This match has been lively to say the least so far. Yannick Carrasco gets a curled shot away, which deflects behind for a corner. Boyata made contact with his head but could only send the ball wide of the target.

15 minCosta Rica counter forward but Boyata, who missed that chance at the other end moments ago, makes a good challenge. Fifteen minutes played in Brussels and we have seen some real opportunities at both ends of the field.

17 minThe ball is played into the middle from the right but it has too much on it for Lukaku, who appeared to be offside anyway. No real sign of the match quietening down any time soon, with Belgium the side currently probing away for an opener.

19 minLukaku shows some serious power in an attempt to get through three opposition players, but he is eventually dispossessed. Nearly a quarter of the match played and Martinez will argue that his side are good value for a goal at this point.

21 minVertonghen is the latest Belgium player to get his head on the end of a right-sided corner, only to send it over the crossbar. Not as good as Boyata's opening a little earlier, but the visitors racking up the chances now.

23 minCosta Rica had that one good chance a few minutes in but, pretty much ever since then, it has been all Belgium. Keylor Navas with a great save to keep out Romelu Lukaku from close range, although the offside was quickly raised.

25 minThe match has gone a little quieter over the past five minutes or so at the King Baudouin Stadium. Martinez will be happy enough with his side's interplay, but a goal would be even nicer before the half-time interval.


26 minThis is a brilliant finish from Bryan Ruiz. The winger watched the ball drop out of the sky and sent his 19-yard volley flying past Thibaut Courtois. The left-footed finish had power and precision, nestling into the bottom corner of the goal.

Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz celebrates scoring their first goal in the friendly against Belgium on June 11, 2018© Reuters

28 minBelgium have seen nearly three-quarters of the ball and have had the better chances, yet they find themselves a goal behind to a Costa Rica side who tend to struggle when it comes to scoring goals. Still a long, long way to go in this one.

30 minSAVE! For all of Belgium's dominance, Keylor Navas has yet to make a save. The Real Madrid stopper did keep out a close-range shot from Romelu Lukaku a little earlier, but the offside flag was up regardless.

32 minNot sure if this will go down as a save as such - Dries Mertens blasted the ball across goal and Keylor Navas got a couple of hands to the ball, pushing it out of Romelu Lukaku's path. Bryan Ruiz's volley the difference between the sides.


33 minRomelu Lukaku's cross is headed right into the feet of Eden Hazard, whose scuffed shot is pounced on by Dries Mertens from a few yards out - he was never going to miss from there. A slice of fortune, unless Hazard claims he intended the pass.

Belgium's Dries Mertens celebrates scoring their first goal in the friendly against Costa Rica on June 11, 2018© Reuters

35 minSAVE! Romelu Lukaku with a shot on target, which Keylor Navas does well to keep out. Moments later, Eden Eden Hazard's curler lacked any real conviction and was easily collected by the Real Madrid keeper.

37 minNavas is now down receiving some treatment. Nothing too worrying - Costa Rica's star man took a boot to the face from Romelu Lukaku and appears to have some blood coming from his nose. Nothing a bit of tissue can't resolve!

39 minGOAL DISALLOWED! Jan Vertonghen heads the ball over the line from a couple of yards out, but the offside flag was up - possibly for the touch off Boyata on its way through. Either way, the officials appeared to make the right call.

41 minThis has been a gripping first half in Brussels. Belgium have been on top pretty much throughout, but they trailed to a Ruiz volley prior to Mertens's close-range finish seven minutes ago. Only one side looks like scoring at the moment, though.


44 minI was just about to criticise Romelu Lukaku for being flagged for offside yet again, but right on cue he produced a fine finish to round off a killer counter-attack. Dries Mertens' cross was near-perfect; Lukaku's volley from eight yards even better.

Belgium's Romelu Lukaku celebrates scoring their second goal in the friendly against Costa Rica on June 11, 2018© Reuters


8.36pmGeancarlo Gonzalez entered the referee's book at the end of the first half for a challenge on Eden Hazard, who was looking to burst clear. Belgium take a 2-1 lead into the interval at the King Baudouin Stadium, courtesy of goals from Dries Mertens and Romelu Lukaku.

8.39pmAn early chance for Oscar Duarte aside, with the centre-back getting his contact all wrong on a half-cleared corner, Costa Rica did not look like scoring prior to their surprise lead. Geancarlo Gonzalez produced a fine tackle to keep out Eden Hazard's shot and Dedryck Boyata glanced a corner wide from a promising position, but then came the sucker-punch as Ruiz produced a fine left-footed finish.

8.42pmThe Sporting Lisbon winger, one of a number of current and former Premier League stars on display in the Belgian capital, watched the ball drop out of the sky and then guided it into the bottom corner from 19 yards. For all Belgium's dominance, it took until that Ruiz strike for them to start troubling opposition keeper - and undisputed star man - Keylor Navas.

8.45pmThere was a slice of fortune to the Red Devils' opener, as Dries Mertens converted from a few yards out after Hazard's scuffed shot fell perfectly into his path. Navas then kept out Lukaku, who had an earlier penalty appeal rejected, before Jan Vertonghen had a header ruled out for offside. The home side did take a lead into the break, however, thanks to Lukaku's volleyed finish from just outside the six-yard box to round off an impressive counter-attack.


BELGIUM SUBS: Mignolet, Casteels, Ciman, Dendoncker, Fellaini, Tielemans, Dembele, Chadli, Januzaj, T.Hazard, Batshuayi

COSTA RICA SUBS: Azofeifa, Calvo, Campbell, Colindres, Guzman, Matarrita, Moreira, Pemberton, Smith, Venegas, Wallace, Waston

Belgium coach Roberto Martinez and assistant Thierry Henry during the friendly against Costa Rica on June 11, 2018© Reuters

46 minRESTART! We are back up and running at the King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels. Both teams appear to have made some changes at the break - I'll bring you fully up to speed with those once the game settles down a little.

48 minVisiting boss Oscar Ramirez brought on Johan Venegas and Francisco Calvo at the interval, with Marcos Urena and Bryan Oviedo making way. Nacer Chadli is on for the Red Devils, meanwhile, taking over from wing-back Thomas Meunier.

50 minThis second half is just taking some time to get going, not helped by those three changes made at the interval. There is always a risk that these pre-tournament friendlies can peter out due to the number of substitutions often made.


53 minBelgium have themselves a third goal of the evening, and it is Romelu Lukaku who has got it to double his own personal tally. Half-time sub Nacer Chadli sent a cross to the edge of the six-yard box, where Lukaku was waiting to power a header past Keylor Navas.

55 minTwo close-range finishes from Lukaku tonight - one with his boot and the other with his head. Roberto Martinez has made his second change of the evening, bringing on Michy Batshuayi - still not quite fully fit - for Dries Mertens.

57 minThere is a brief stoppage in play for Yannick Carrasco to receive some treatment - that will be a worry for Martinez. Belgium are in a very strong position in this match; the last thing they need is to lose any key players to injury.

59 minCarrasco appears fine to continue after slamming his head against his opponent's body. Dries Mertens has just been spotted with an ice pack on his leg, though, and that is far more of a concern for Martinez. Batshuayi was brought on for the forward a few minutes ago.

61 minSHOT! It has been a quiet second half, in comparison to the first at least, but Belgium are still in complete control. Kevin De Bruyne has time and space on the edge of the box, only to blast wide of the target.

63 minNot seen a great deal from Costa Rica in an attacking sense tonight - as many predicted. The first chance of the match did fall their way, though, and they did take the lead through an impressive Bryan Ruiz volley 24 minutes into the game.

64 minCOSTA RICA SUB! A third change of the evening for Costa Rica - David Guzman has come on for Christian Bolanos. We have played over an hour now so Roberto Martinez is presumably lining up further changes of his own.

Costa Rica manager Oscar Ramirez on March 27, 2018© Reuters


66 minBelgium are cruising over the line now, netting a fourth goal with more than a quarter of the match left to play. Romelu Lukaku turned provided after netting a couple of his own, laying the ball off for Michy Batshuayi to blast home. Great work from Eden Hazard in the build-up, too!

68 minBELGIUM SUB! The Red Devils really are flying now, and that Lukaku assist proves that they are all playing for the team rather than individual glory. Lukaku has just been replaced by Thorgan Hazard with 12 minutes left to play.

70 minSUBS! A whole raft of changes now. Leander Dendoncker is on for Dedryck Boyata in the Red Devils' latest change, while Ian Smith and Joel Campbell are on for Cristian Gamboa and Bryan Ruiz. Can the visitors offer anything in the remaining minutes?

72 minBELGIUM SUB! The match is not being given any room to breathe at the moment, with further changes being made by Martinez. Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard have been given a rest; Mousa Dembele and Youri Tielemans are on in their place.

74 minBarring a dramatic collapse late on here, Belgium will head into the World Cup on the back of a 19-match unbeaten run, spanning close to two years. They have been dark horses for too long - will they finally live up to the hype on the big stage?

76 minThere has been very little in terms of goalmouth action in this second half, other than the two goals. Belgium are in cruise controlling, constantly probing away but not really looking likely to add to their scoring.

78 minNot a great deal is expected of Costa Rica in the finals, and there is a definite feel that this squad is a little too old. They did highlight in the first half that they have the ability to net world-class goals, though - a mere consolation!

80 minNot quite sure Martinez would take full time just yet, as he wants those brought on to get some minutes under their belt, but this match has badly fizzling out. The Red Devils can move back up another few gears if they wish.

82 minCHANCE! The first clear-cut chance in a long time falls the way of Thorgan Hazard, who managed to cut inside but was unable to keep his shot on target from nine yards out. A fifth would be the icing on the cake.

84 minSAVE! Youri Tielemans, one of those brought on in this stop-start second half, has a go from range but fails to force anything more than a routine save out of Keylor Navas. Six minutes left to play in the Belgian capital.

86 minMichy Batshuayi did well to play the ball into the path of Youri Tielemans, who was unable to squeeze the ball past Keylor Navas from a tight angle. The Red Devils have stepped things up over the past five minutes or so in search for a fifth goal.

88 minA couple of minutes left to play in the Belgian capital and it is unlikely that the referee will add on too many minutes at the end. Roberto Martinez will be by far the happier of the two managers, with his side running out clear winners in the end.

90 minThe 90 minutes are now up and we will play an additional two. Still plenty of time for Belgium to add a fifth, but on the basis of the past 25 minutes or so that is unlikely to happen. Still, not a bad night's work for the hosts!


9.44pmA very comfortable night in the end for Belgium, as they recovered from a goal down to beat Costa Rica 4-1. That is now 19 matches without defeat for the Red Devils, who head to the World Cup finals as third favourites and with plenty of momentum on their side.

9.46pmThat concludes Sports Mole's live text coverage of events from the King Baudouin Stadium. An on-the-whistle report can be found by clicking here, and be sure to check out our team-by-team previews ahead of Thursday's World Cup opener. Thanks for joining!

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Belgium manager Roberto Martinez on October 10, 2017
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