Romelu Lukaku will not play for Belgium at the World Cup until at least their final Group F match against Croatia, a team source told AFP on Sunday.
The forward did not take part in the Red Devils’ first proper training session since they arrived in Qatar on Friday as he continues his recovery from a hamstring injury.
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Lukaku is Belgium’s all-time top scorer with 68 goals in 102 appearances and was called up to their World Cup squad despite coach Roberto Martinez admitting he was not fully fit.
The 29-year-old has endured a difficult past 18 months, moving back to Inter Milan on loan after a dismal season with Chelsea.
However, he has played just twice for Inter since August after first picking up the injury in a 3-1 defeat at Lazio.
He returned to action in style last month, scoring in a 4-0 win against Viktoria Plzen that ensured Inter’s passage to the last 16 of the Champions League but he then injured his hamstring again a few days later.
Belgium begin their World Cup campaign on Wednesday against Canada and also take on Morocco before meeting 2018 World Cup finalists Croatia at the start of next month.
Martinez has to decide who will replace Lukaku up front. Fenerbahce forward Michy Batshuayi started in Belgium’s one warm-up match before the tournament, a 2-1 defeat to Egypt on Friday.
Batshuayi was replaced by Lens forward Lois Openda, who pulled a goal back in the 76th minute of the clash in Kuwait City.