Romania, Slovakia and Belgium into Euro 2024 last 16 – Sport

FRANKFURT: Romania’s Razvan Marin scored a first-half penalty to cancel out Ondrej Duda’s headed goal for Slovakia as the teams played out a 1-1 Euro 2024 Group ‘E’ draw on Wednesday to both reach the last 16.

Belgium also qualified for the last 16 after a 0-0 draw with Ukraine, who exited the tournament despite all four teams in Group ‘E’ finishing level on four points.

Romania earned top spot on goals scored from Belgium and Slovakia ending third, ahead of Ukraine on goal difference.

Belgium go to Duesseldorf and face France on Monday.

Romania reached the knockout stages of the Euros for the first time since 2000, while for Slovakia it will be a second appearance in the last 16 after 2016, when they lost to Germany.

The game in Frankfurt was played in a feverish atmosphere, with the fervour in the stands matched by the helter-skelter nature of a match that was not high on quality, but had plenty of entertainment and intrigue.

The teams came into the game knowing a draw would be enough to send both through and there was plenty of talk in the build-up of the potential for them to contrive that, something the coaches denied vehemently.

Certainly, there was no lack of energy and endeavour, which slowed only towards the end of the game.

Slovakia opened the scoring midway through the first half with the simplest of goals that will have left Romania coach Edward Iordanescu fuming.

Juraj Kucka curled in a cross from the right and Duda was left unmarked between two defenders to head across goal and into the net.

Romania were restricted to shots from range, none of which troubled Slovakia goalkeeper Martin Dubravka.

That was until they were awarded a penalty when Ianis Hagi was felled by Slovakia defender David Hancko.

Marin made no mistake with the spot-kick as he rifled it into the top corner, signalling a thunderous eruption of joy from the Romanian fans in the stadium, who appeared to outnumber their Slovak counterparts by four to one.

The chances continued at either end, with handling made more difficult for the goalkeepers by a sudden torrential downpour as the heat turned to driving wind and rain, but both sets of supporters were left to celebrate wildly at the final whistle.

Meanwhile, Belgium supporters reacted furiously at the final whistle in Stuttgart, with captain Kevin De Bruyne appearing to tell his team-mates not to go over to acknowledge them as the whistles and jeers grew louder.

­­Romelu Lukaku scuffed straight at Anatoliy Trubin when well-placed after a slick through ball from De Bruyne.

Yaremchuk tested Koen Casteels and he might have given his team the lead if Artem Dovbyk had found him in the area after getting the better of Arthur Theate.

Lukaku saw a weak shot smothered by Trubin, who then beat away a much firmer strike from Yannick Carrasco as Belgium chased the goal that would have clinched first place in the group.

Ruslan Malinovskyi’s corner left Casteels frantically scooping the ball to safety at his near post as a nervy finish ensued, Ukraine desperately needing a goal that Belgium knew would spell disaster for them.

Johan Bakayoko curled wide for Belgium and Malinovskyi’s piledriver was blocked by Timothy Castagne, with Georgiy Sudakov unable to find a way past Casteels in stoppage time as Ukraine’s adventure came to an emotional conclusion.

SLOVENIA PROGRESS AFTER ENGLAND DRAW

On Tuesday, Slovenia progressed in the Euro 2024 knockout stage for the first time in their history as they held Group ‘C’ leaders England to a dour 0-0 draw.

Meanwhile, Denmark also advanced after an identical 0-0 draw against Serbia and secured the second spot in the Group ‘C’ ahead of Slovenia on disciplinary record.

Underwhelming England sealed top spot but hardly issued a statement of intent ahead of the Euro 2024 knockout rounds as they toiled to a draw.

For the third game in row England’s fans were left frustrated as a team billed as pre-tournament favourites managed a paltry three attempts on target.

While England have big questions to answer, Slovenia’s players and raucous fans celebrated wildly as the draw ensured they finished the group in third spot after three draws.

England, who had already qualified for the last 16 with a game to spare, ended the group stage with five points but managed only two goals in three games.

Slovenia finished with three points in third spot, the same as second-placed Denmark who were held to a 0-0 draw by Serbia.

Although they had the same goal difference, goals scored and disciplinary record, the Danes advanced in second place with UEFA saying they would clarify the process by which the nations were separated later.

While the final whistle sparked delirium in the Slovenian ranks, many England fans left before the end and vented their frustration as they players walked to greet them, booing and throwing a few plastic glasses on to the pitch.

“We can be proud of finishing top, it’s not easy in these major tournaments,” captain Harry Kane said. “It was a tough game but probably our best performance of the three, energy with the ball, we pressed better, but we lacked a bit of magic in the final third. But that will come.”

England enjoyed 72% possession and completed 694 passes compared to the 208 of their opponents but very few of them caused any real concern in the Slovenia defence in which Vanja Drkusic and Jaka Bijol were both outstanding.

In the Tuesday’s other clash, the Danes, semi-finalists at this competition in 2021, knew a draw would be enough to qualify.

Despite Serbia needing a win to progress, the Danes were more willing to attack early, with the Serbs rarely venturing into Danish territory.

Denmark caught the Serbian defence napping early, Christian Eriksen’s free-kick finding Jonas Wind alone in the box, but the forward shot directly at goalkeeper Predrag Rajkovic on the turn.

The Danes’ best phase came after 20 minutes, Eriksen forcing a fingertip save from Rajkovic and then pinning Serbia back with a series of corners.

Luka Jovic, brought from the bench at half-time, immediately posed questions of the Danish defence, pressuring Joachim Andersen into an own goal eight minutes in but the flag went up again for offside.

Denmark coach Dragan Stojkovic went all out in the hope of a winner, bringing Juventus striker Dusan Vlahovic on alongside forwards Jovic and Aleksandar Mitrovic, but the Serbs were unable to break through.

Published in Dawn, June 27th, 2024

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