Belgium were eliminated from the World Cup after a 0-0 draw with Croatia on Thursday.
To advance past the group stage, Roberto Martinez’s side needed a win against the 2018 World Cup finalists, but they were unable to find the back of the net.
Captain Eden Hazard was benched for the first half, and Romelu Lukaku came on to miss four big chances as Belgium’s World Cup journey came to an end.
Croatia advances to the round of 16, but only in second place after Morocco won the group with a 2-1 victory over Canada.
“It’s not easy to win games in the World Cup,” Martinez said after the game to the BBC. “We weren’t ourselves in the first game, and we suffered a well-deserved defeat in the second game.”
“Today, we were prepared, we created opportunities, and there are no regrets.” We’re leaving, but we’re leaving with our heads held high.”
Croatia dominated from the start and had a chance within the first 20 seconds, but Ivan Perisic blazed his shot over the crossbar.
After 14 minutes, Belgium counterattacked quickly, but Dries Mertens was unable to find the target after a fine through ball from Kevin de Bruyne.
Less than a minute later, Croatia were awarded a penalty when Yannick Carrasco was adjudged to have brought down Andrej Kramaric inside the area. The VAR sent referee Anthony Taylor to the monitor as Luka Modric prepared to take the penalty kick, and the decision was overturned for an offside in the buildup.
The rest of the half turned out to be a tense affair, but the game came to life after the break.
Thibaut Courtois of Belgium was called into action early on and stopped Croatia on three occasions.
Lukaku came on in the second half and missed two big chances in quick succession for Inter Milan.
Just after the hour mark, Lukaku was the first to react to a rebound, hitting the post from close range with the goalkeeper out of position.
With the goal at his disposal, the striker headed another easy effort over the bar.
It was not Lukaku’s night, as he went on to miss two more open goals as Croatia held off Belgium’s late attacks.