MOGI DAS CRUSES, Brazil (AP) — Striker Romelu Lukaku resumed training with Belgium’s World Cup squad on Wednesday showing no apparent effect from a right ankle strain he sustained last weekend.
Lukaku jogged with his teammates to get the jet lag from Tuesday’s flight out of his system before he performed balancing exercises which put specific pressure on the tender ankle.
“He is 100 percent. He has no trouble,” Belgium coach Marc Wilmots said after the first workout of his players on Brazilian soil. “You saw the kind of pressure he put on his ankle during the workout.”
Lukaku is expected to be Belgium’s center forward for next Tuesday’s opening Group H match against Algeria. His form has become even more important since the team’s No. 1 forward Christian Benteke injured his Achilles tendon and misses the World Cup.
Fortunately, Lukaku has shown great form during the preparation campaign, scoring four goals, including a hat trick against Luxembourg, in two warmup games.
He got injured last Saturday during a 1-0 win over Tunisia.
Belgium has long had trouble finding a dependable all-out striker and with Benteke at Aston Villa and Lukaku at Everton playing well in the Premier League this season, it seemed that problem was finally fixed.
Lukaku’s brace in Croatia which assured World Cup qualification last year raised hopes that Belgium could finally shed its trademark defensive game and play creatively as well as the best in Europe.
The first blow of losing Benteke was followed last weekend by a scare that Lukaku too was struggling. Lukaku started out as a power forward relying on his height and bulk to impress but he has recently added some deft skills to complement his game.
Without any more injury scares, he will be the starting center forward for Belgium, which also plays Russia and South Korea later in the group phase.
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