Belgium have crashed out of the World Cup following a 0-0 draw with Croatia, marking a bitter end for the country’s so-called “Golden Generation” of stars.
Coach Roberto Martinez’s side, ranked the second best in the world by FIFA, failed to find any fluency in Thursday’s clash at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium and their desperate second-half attempts to break the deadlock ultimately came to nothing.
Neither side had a shot on target in a dour first half and Belgium brought on striker Romelu Lukaku at the break, but it was Croatia who sprang into life, with Marcelo Brozovic and Luka Modric drawing saves from Thibaut Courtois in quick succession.
Lukaku rattled the post with a fierce shot from close range on the hour as Belgium pushed desperately for the goal that would send them through and went on to waste a string of goalmouth opportunities as the clock ticked towards full time.
The stalemate left the Red Devils stranded in third place in Group F, with Croatia one spot above them and Morocco finishing top of the pile following their 2-1 win over Canada.
The 2018 runners-up will face the winners of Group E – which could be Spain, Japan or Costa Rica – on Monday.
Morocco, who have reached the knockout stages for the first time since 1986, will play the runners-up from Group E, which also includes four time champions Germany, the following day.