Romelu Lukaku clasped the lens with both hands and shouted into the television camera. ‘Chris, Chris, I love you!’
Belgium’s record scorer had just scored the first of his two goals in this Group B win over Russia and there was only one thing on his mind as he raced to find the nearest pitch-side camera in St Petersburg.
Only Lukaku knows what was going through his head in the minutes after his friend and Inter Milan teammate Christian Eriksen collapsed during Denmark’s group opener against Finland.
Belgium kicked off their Euro 2020 campaign with a comfortable 3-0 win against Russia in St Petersburg on Saturday
Romelu Lukaku gave Belgium the lead in the 10th minute after Andrei Semyonov failed to clear the cross for Russia
The Inter Milan star emotionally dedicated his goal to club team-mate Christian Eriksen after he collapsed on the field earlier in the day, shouting ‘Chris, Chris I love you’ into the camera
In the other Group B fixture, Eriksen collapsed and needed CPR and was later taken to hospital where he was stabilised
MATCH FACTS AND PLAYER RATINGS
Belgium (3-5-3): Courtois 6.5; Alderweireld 6.5, Boyata 6.5, Vertonghen 7 (Vermaelen 77); Castagne 6 (Meunier 27, 7), Dendoncker 6, Tielemans 7, T Hazard 6.5; Mertens 7 (E Hazard 72, 6), Lukaku 8, Carrasco 6.5 (Praet 77, 6).
Subs: Mignolet, Sels, Denayer, Benteke, Chadli, Batshuayi, Trossard, Doku,
Scorers: Lukaku 10, 89, Meunier 34
Russia (4-2-3-1): Shunin 5; Mario Fernandes 6, Semenov 5, Dzhikiya 6.5, Zhirkov 6 (Karavaev 43, 6.5); Ozdoev 5.5, Barinov 5 (Diveev 46, 5); Zobnin 6 (Mukhin 63, 6.5), Golovin 5, Kuzyaev 5.5 (Cheryshev 29, 6, Al Miranchuk 63, 6); Dzyuba 6
Subs: Sobolev, Zabolotny, Dyupin, Safonov, Zhemaletdinov, Ionov, Evgeniev.
Referee: Antonio Miguel Mateu Lahoz (Spain) 7
The same goes for Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld who have spent most of their careers playing alongside Eriksen at Ajax and Tottenham.
As the world anxiously waited for news on Eriksen, just imagine how the three Belgians were feeling as they tried to prepare for their country’s first game.
A year’s delay for Euro 2020, months of build-up, weeks of preparation and suddenly they were in turmoil as the horrific events unfolded in Copenhagen.
Mercifully, more positive news emerged on Eriksen’s condition but it was a horrible situation for his friends in the Belgium camp. Vertonghen still looked in a state of shock in the tunnel before kick-off.
‘I had a lot of tears before the game,’ admitted Lukaku. ‘It was difficult to focus. Other players were affected too.
‘I’m happy with the victory, but my thoughts are with Christian. I’m going to contact him. I read that he’s out of danger. I hope he’ll be in good health soon.’
As ever at times like this when events on the football field veer towards tragedy and a man’s life hangs in the balance, everything else pales into insignificance. Certainly, Martinez and his…