Lukaku ready for pressure before Belgium opener

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 15, 2014 at 5:40 pm •  Published: June 15, 2014

BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil (AP) — Romelu Lukaku knows he bears a huge responsibility before Belgium kicks off its World Cup campaign against Algeria on Tuesday.

The 21-year-old Lukaku has taken up the role of Belgium's central striker after an injury to Christian Benteke ruled him out of the tournament, and he's relishing it.

"I love pressure. I embrace it," he said. "If you are scared of pressure, you don't play well."

The young striker has already proved that he's well beyond his years in dealing with difficult situations. Before Chelsea sent Lukaku on a season-long loan to Everton, the striker said he would send a message to manager Jose Mourinho that he was ready to be the Premier League club's main striker. Lukaku did just that, scoring 16 goals in all competitions for Everton.

Demonstrating his importance to Belgium's plans, Lukaku caused great concern when he injured his right ankle in a 1-0 win over Tunisia in a friendly on June 7. The following day, he showed off a huge bandage strapped to it. The thought of Belgium without its two main strikers put the nation's football fans on edge.

It turned out to only be a strain and he resumed training days later. Lukaku appeared to be fully fit during a training session Sunday on Belo Horizonte's outskirts, showing that the injury is behind him as the team prepares for the Group H opener.

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