World Cup hits and misses: Romelu Lukaku shadow of former self as Belgium's tournament exit spelt end for head coach Roberto Martinez

World Cup hits and misses: Romelu Lukaku shadow of former self as Belgium's tournament exit spelt end for head coach Roberto Martinez

Plus: Germany's inefficiency sees them crash out of the World Cup again; Hakim Ziyech's wonderful World Cup continues for Morocco; How Chelsea target Josko Gvardiol was vital to Croatia's last-16 progression; Why the misuse of Bayern Munich's Alphonso Davies was Canada's downfall

When it comes to hits and misses, there cannot be many more literal examples of the latter than Romelu Lukaku's performance against Croatia. Coming on at half-time with Belgium in need of just one goal to progress, Lukaku missed four clear chances to score.

The second, a header, would not have counted. The cross had gone out of play. The third, a ricochet behind from close range, he could not have anticipated. But the first miss was big and those subsequent chances cannot have helped his confidence for the last one.

A post struck. An attempt to chest the ball down when he was so close with the goalkeeper beaten that it would have been easier to chest it into the net. These were bad misses for anyone at any time let alone a celebrated striker with World Cup hopes on the line.

It was cruel on Lukaku. He was devastated afterwards even as Thierry Henry tried to console him. In some respects, he should not have been put in this position, tasked with saving his country having played only half an hour of club football since August.

There is an individual award for the Golden Boot winner, the Golden Glove and for the Player of the Tournament. But what about 'Tackle of the Tournament'? Josko Gvardiol kept Croatia at the World Cup with the flick of his boot. It denied Romelu Lukaku a certain goal. It capped a magnificent performance from the masked defender.

At just 20 years old, he already looks the complete package and it was clear to see why Gvardiol has been heavily linked with a move to Chelsea among other clubs leading up to the World Cup.

Croatia midfielder Mateo Kovacic said afterwards: "He's phenomenal, he's 20 and he's already fantastic. He can play at the highest level and he will only continue to get better. But I have no comments to make about links with Chelsea."

Well, you can slap an extra £10m on the player's valuation now. RB Leipzig will have seen Gvardiol's development first hand but the Bundesliga outfit will struggle to retain his services for much longer if he keeps Croatia as compact and resolute as he did on Thursday evening.

A Rolls-Royce of a defender already, Gvardiol made nine clearances, eight ball recoveries and produced six key passes into the final third in addition to two tackles.

As Spain pick up the pieces from their extraordinary 2-1 loss to Japan and begin to look at what actually went wrong, leaving aside the VAR drama surrounding the decisive goal, they will surely conclude that Unai Simon was at least partly to blame.

The 25-year-old, Spain's first-choice goalkeeper ahead of David Raya and Robert Sanchez, with David de Gea absent from the squad, had almost cost them in the first half when he erred in possession under pressure from Japan striker Daizen Maeda and a similar scene unfolded soon after the break.

This time, though, Spain did not recover. His panicked pass did find its way to left-back Alejandro Balde, but it was at awkward height for him, allowing Japan to steal possession through Junya Ito and work the ball forward to substitute Ritsu Doan.

Doan's subsequent shot was firmly struck, but Simon should have done better in that respect too, the Athletic Bilbao goalkeeper getting both hands to the ball but still failing to prevent it from going in.

Simon could do little about the winner, although his positioning was perhaps less than perfect, but the warning signs about what happened for the equaliser were there long before Thursday night's second half, in the previous game against Germany.

It's quite inconceivable that Germany would exit at the group stage in two successive World Cups. They have always been hailed for their efficiency which has led to continued success, but it has been a distinct inefficiency that sees them crash out again.

Even manager Hansi Flick said: "We did not have any efficiency at this tournament and that is why we were eliminated."

It has been a litany of failures at World Cups since their 2014 win in Brazil. Just one win and two defeats in Russia saw them finish bottom of their group. Now, four years on and a new manager later, they finish third on goal difference and on an early flight back to Berlin.

Given their chances created - especially against Japan and Costa Rica - they should have cruised into the last 16. They had 32 shots on Thursday evening, and 26 in their 2-1 defeat to Japan.

Add the 11 they managed against Spain, they racked up 69 shots in their group stage games. It's again astonishing that they only scored six goals with goal difference eventually proving crucial.

But errors in midfield and defence were also equally as crucial. There were uncharacteristic sloppy passes and Manuel Neuer was needed to bail his defenders out of trouble on more than one occasion - his save from Keysher Fuller late in the first half after Antonio Rudiger's mistake a prime example.

Journey back a few months and Hakim Ziyech was not a name you would find among the Moroccan national team setup. The Chelsea forward had effectively retired himself from international duty, following discord with former coach Vahid Halilhodzic. But, having reinstated himself after a brief leave of absence, he's back doing what he's good at. There were even remnants of the pace and industry that tempted Chelsea into the transfer market back in 2020 - the Ajax Ziyech, if you will.

You could find the winger scampering downfield at the Al Thumama Stadium on Thursday, making a nuisance of himself by operating as the pinch point for Morocco, attracting fearful defenders to his mere presence. He caused untold problems for Canada's disorganised backline, all while bringing others into play with clever movement, incisive passing and cheeky invention.

Morocco like to play on the front foot. It's their style. It's what their red-clad army of fans have demanded at this tournament. And Ziyech has been more than obliging, mercilessly capitalising on Milan Borjan's blunder to give his side the upper hand with only four minutes on the clock against Canada.

One of Canada's defining characteristics during John Herdman's time in charge has been their ability to adapt to the manager's various tweaks of formation.

When it works, switching systems from game to game can help a side to punch above their weight by nullifying opponents' strengths and exposing their weaknesses. Herdman guided Canada to their first World Cup in 36 years, so it's hard to argue with the Englishman's approach.

However, when the tinkering backfires, it can make a team look muddled - a description that could be levelled at Canada in Qatar.

Their three matches saw them line up in three different formations, while Alphonso Davies - undoubtedly the star of Canadian football - was handed three different starting positions and was regularly shifted around the field as Herdman made further in-game tweaks.

Davies regularly lines up at left-back for his club, Bayern Munich, but the touch map below shows how varied his usage was with Canada at the World Cup.

While it's not uncommon for international sides to use players differently from how they are deployed at club level - Real Madrid defender David Alaba often plays in midfield or on the wing for Austria, for example - Canada didn't seem to know how to get the best from Davies.

The 22-year-old played at wing-back, on both flanks in a 4-4-2 and as part of a front two, but Canada's inability to make him the focal point of their game is shown by the fact he managed just one shot during the tournament.

It's hard to be too harsh on Canada, given they outplayed Belgium in their opening game and took the lead in their second against Croatia.

The difference between Japan in the first half and Japan in the second half was so stark in contrast you could be forgiven for thinking you were watching two completely different sides.

Tactical wizardry from Hajime Moriyasu? Or simply a case of sending out the wrong team again? Who knows, really. But Ritsu Doan and Kaoru Mitoma - both introduced at half-time - turned the game on its head against Spain. The former scored the equaliser, then the two combined for Ao Tanaka's controversial winner.