Belgium bow to Slovakia grit: Slovaks hold fort after Schranz strike as VAR frustrates Lukaku

Slovakia's forward #26 Ivan Schranz
Slovakia's forward #26 Ivan Schranz celebrates with teammates after scoring their first goal during the UEFA Euro 2024 Group E football match between Belgium and Slovakia at the Frankfurt Arena in Frankfurt am Main on June 17, 2024.

Ivan Schranz scored Slovakia’s quickest goal at a major tournament to take his side to an upset 1-0 victory over wasteful Belgium in the European Championship Group E on Monday.

It was Belgium’s first loss in 16 games under coach Domenico Tedesco and a flashback to their disastrous 2022 World Cup campaign, although they did have two goals ruled out by VAR.

Both were from the boot of Romelu Lukaku, the first for offside and the second a handball in the build-up on a hugely frustrating day for the burly striker in which he also missed several clear-cut chances.

Slovakia joined Romania at the top of the standings after their 3-0 win over Ukraine in Munich earlier on Monday. Belgium next meet Romania in Cologne on Saturday.

There had been talk before the game of this being a new Belgium, casting off the Golden Generation tag and filled with young talent, but the same problems persist.

Tedesco’s side dominated the 90 minutes, but lacked a clinical touch.

Belgium were without their preferred central defensive pairing of Jan Vertonghen and Arthur Theate and with left winger Jeremy Doku playing on the right in the first half and Yannick Carrasco as a left wing-back, there was a lack of balance to the team.

It was that uncertainty that led to Slovakia’s opener as Doku’s poor ball into his own box was not dealt with by the defence and when Juraj Kucka’s effort was saved, the ball fell to Schranz who beat Belgium goalkeeper Koen Casteels from a tight angle with a goal timed at six minutes and five seconds.

Belgium will feel they should have been 1-0 up by then as Lukaku was foiled from point-blank range by Slovakia goalkeeper Martin Dubravka after Doku’s mesmerising run from his own half.

That was the first of three big chances in the half for Lukaku, who had scored 17 goals in 11 games under Tedesco.

Slovakia had opportunities too and they also showed excellent defensive discipline as every tackle was celebrated by the Slovak players as if they had scored a goal. Belgium came close again when a goalmouth scramble ended with substitute Johan Bakayoko shooting for what seemed a certain goal, only for Slovakia defender David Hancko to clear the ball off the line.

They were denied again when Lois Openda handled the ball after his persistence of the left-hand side had set up Lukaku.

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