"We must do really well so that we can peak at the next World Cup," the striker tells UEFA.com.
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Romelu Lukaku heads into Thursday's UEFA Nations League semi-final against France as Belgium's all-time top scorer, having also passed the 100-cap mark for the Red Devils since his side's exit from UEFA EURO 2020 at the quarter-final stage.
Roberto Martínez's men have been the top-ranked team in international football for the best part of a decade, but the 'Golden Generation' have yet to win a major tournament. The 28-year-old Chelsea striker tells UEFA.com that he hopes a good performance at the UEFA Nations League finals can set Belgium up for an even bigger success at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
On making it to 100 caps for Belgium
One hundred caps is something you really strive to achieve as a young player. I was lucky that I started out at an early age. I’m 28 now; nearly 12 years have passed with lots of ups and downs, but as a team we have always continued to grow. In the end, the ultimate goal remains to win and that’s my motivation. Every time I play for the national team, I want to win. And to win a tournament.
In recent years, we have always managed to have a good start at tournaments and the expectations were always high. In 2016 [UEFA EURO], we didn’t deliver, it was very hard. During the [2018 FIFA] World Cup in Russia we did quite well [third place], but I think now in the Nations League we must do really well, so that we can peak at the next World Cup.
On being Belgium’s all-time top scorer
I didn’t really begin scoring goals straight away for the national team. It took me some time. But once I had settled in, I knew I would have opportunities to score and that the other players would enable me to do so. And everyone else started to score goals as well, not just me: Eden [Hazard], Kevin [De Bruyne], Dries [Mertens]. That made me think that in attack, we have real top quality. And for me, it was like a sweet store: just constantly scoring goals.
At some point, I stopped counting and just continued playing. And we also won our matches. That was the great achievement, you know: scoring and winning. I really hate to lose, but scoring and still losing is awful as well. I’m glad that we managed to win so many of our matches, but in the end you really just want to win a trophy and that’s what truly motivates me.
On honouring former Inter team-mate Christian Eriksen with his goal celebration against Russia at EURO 2020
Against Russia it was really tough. [During my spell at Inter] I spent more time with Christian than with my mother, my son, [or] my brother because in Italy with the training you are at the club the whole day. His room was next to mine, playing Call of Duty and stuff. So when [he collapsed on the pitch], I heard about it during the meeting and I started to cry. I was constantly thinking about him.
On the way to the stadium in Saint Petersburg I needed something [to fire myself up], so I decided to play for him throughout the whole tournament. I wanted a moment of support and to show him that I was with him. I also sent him a message and I was happy he replied to me.
On how he likes to play
The way I’m built – I’m quite big – everybody thinks I’m a sort of target man: just holding up the ball and being a goal poacher. But I’ve never played that way and I hate it. My biggest strength is that I’m dangerous when I’m facing towards the goal, because that’s when I rarely make wrong choices.
After I pass the ball, I know where I have to position myself in the box. I can do a bit of everything and in some games when I know there is a lot of space behind the defence, I play differently. The reason I’m so productive [in front of goal] is because I can do a bit of everything.