Euro 2024: Slovakia upset Belgium as VAR denies Lukaku twice

Belgium miss lots of chances as Slovaks claim famous victory

Slovakia's players celebrate their first goal. Photograph: Angelos Tzortzinis/AFP via Getty

Euro 2024: Slovakia 1 Belgium 0

Ivan Schranz scored Slovakia’s quickest goal at a major tournament to take his side to a gritty upset 1-0 victory over wasteful Belgium in 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.

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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 and when they did find it they were denied by the VAR and scrambling Slovakia defence.

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. Casteels had to make a superb diving save from Lukas Haraslin’s excellent volley, and they 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.