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Belgium Advances to Euro 2024 Knockout Stage After Draw with Ukraine

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Stuttgart, Germany — Belgium secured their spot in the last 16 of Euro 2024 on Wednesday following a 0-0 draw with Ukraine, who were eliminated despite all four teams in Group E finishing with four points each.

Romania claimed the top position in the group ahead of Belgium by scoring more goals, following their 1-1 draw with Slovakia. Slovakia also advanced as one of the four best third-placed teams.

Belgian fans expressed their frustration at the final whistle in Stuttgart, with captain Kevin De Bruyne seemingly instructing his teammates not to acknowledge the crowd as boos and whistles intensified.

Belgium will face France in the next round, landing them in a challenging bracket that includes hosts Germany, Spain, and Portugal.

Ukraine’s courageous run ended painfully, as they became the first team in the expanded 24-team tournament format not to progress with four points.

This was the first time in European Championship history that all four teams in a group entered the final round of matches with the same number of points.

Leandro Trossard replaced the suspended Dodi Lukebakio for Belgium, who donned kits paying homage to the comic book hero Tintin, featuring pale blue shirts, brown shorts, and white socks.

Ukraine, missing wingers Mykhailo Mudryk and Viktor Tsygankov due to injury, shifted to a three-at-the-back formation with Oleksandr Zinchenko out and Roman Yaremchuk starting after scoring as a substitute against Slovakia.

Ukrainian Fans Honor Fallen Comrades

Ukrainian supporters unveiled a banner featuring a portrait of a 21-year-old soldier killed in battle last month, created using artificial intelligence with photos of 182 football fans also fallen in combat. The message read, “Peace has a price. Thousands of football fans have been killed in the war since February 2022,” referring to the ongoing conflict following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Romelu Lukaku, who had three goals disallowed in Belgium’s first two matches, failed to convert a chance, shooting straight at Anatoliy Trubin after a slick pass from De Bruyne.

Yaremchuk tested Belgian goalkeeper Koen Casteels and might have scored if Artem Dovbyk had successfully found him in the box after beating Arthur Theate.

Twice, De Bruyne was disturbed by a laser pointer aimed at his face during free-kicks, nearly catching Trubin off guard on one occasion.

De Bruyne had another curling effort saved, and Yaremchuk’s pass across the Belgian area failed to connect with Dovbyk.

Lukaku’s weak shot was easily smothered by Trubin, who later parried a strong strike from Yannick Carrasco as Belgium pushed for the group-winning goal.

In a tense finish, Ruslan Malinovskyi’s corner forced Casteels to scramble the ball to safety. Belgium, knowing a Ukrainian goal would eliminate them, held firm despite late pressure. Johan Bakayoko’s shot went wide for Belgium, and Malinovskyi’s powerful attempt was blocked by Timothy Castagne. Georgiy Sudakov was unable to beat Casteels in stoppage time, bringing Ukraine’s journey to an emotional end.

Source: AFP