Late drama as Slovakia shock Belgium at Euro 2024

Slovakia caused an upset in their Euro 2024 opener as they beat Group E favourites Belgium in a chaotic encounter in Frankfurt.

There was drama in the final minutes as Romelu Lukaku thought he had equalised, only for the video assistant referee (VAR) to rule it out for handball in the build-up.

It was the second goal he had scored that had been ruled out by VAR after earlier poking in a header across goal from Amadou Onana.

Ivan Schranz put Slovakia ahead when he capitalised on a mistake at the back by Manchester City's Jeremy Doku, stunning Belgium, ranked third in the world - Slovakia are 45 places below in 48th.

After missing countless chances throughout, several falling to all-time top scorer Lukaku, Belgium eventually left empty-handed.

In a topsy-turvy 90 minutes, substitute Johan Bakayoko was denied by a superb goalline clearance from Slovakia's David Hancko.

Lukaku's frustrations grew as chances kept passing by - the best coming within three minutes after Doku had gone on a spectacular run down the right.

Belgium's inability to grasp control meant they trailed at the break, with Doku's costly mistake helping Slovakia get the upper hand.

Manchester City's Kevin de Bruyne remained a threat, while Arsenal's Leandro Trossard curled an effort over the bar following a poor clearance from goalkeeper Martin Dubravka.

Lukas Haraslin also came close on occasions for Slovakia, fizzing a superbly executed volley towards goal which needed saving by Koen Casteels, before placing another strike wide in the second half.

Belgium, who exited the 2022 World Cup at the group stage, must respond when they take on Romania next - a side who recorded a stunning 3-0 win over Ukraine in the other match on Monday afternoon.

As Belgium travel to Cologne on Saturday looking to regain ground, Slovakia face Ukraine, no doubt buoyed by their perfect start to Euro 2024.

Slovakians celebrate as Belgium pay price

Slovakia celebrate
Slovakia were victorious after Belgium had two goals ruled out by the video assistant referee in the second half [Getty Images]

Dubbed by many as the 'new Belgium', this is undoubtedly a nation in transition, with several members of their 'golden generation' phasing out of the squad.

The likes of Eden Hazard and Toby Alderweireld are no longer around for Belgium, while this was a first major tournament match without Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois since 2002.

Expectations are not as high as their world ranking perhaps suggests - but Belgium fans did not expect to leave Frankfurt having suffered defeat by Slovakia.

Lukaku’s missed chances will have left sour reminders of their premature World Cup group-stage exit when he failed to find the net in a goalless draw with Croatia, but he will feel hard done by here in Germany.

He was a nuisance with his movement in the box but his lack of clinical edge proved costly for Belgium, who had plenty of attacking talent on the pitch around him.

Trossard was too often on the periphery, while Doku shined offensively but played the loose pass which led to Schranz’s well-taken goal.

As Belgium were left licking their wounds in Frankfurt, their supporters jeering in frustration throughout the second half, Slovakia celebrated passionately at full-time.

Supporters in the stands waved scarves, chanted and bounced in unison and when the whistle finally ended an agonising stoppage-time period, substitutes raced on to the pitch from the dugout to celebrate with their team-mates.

Afterwards, Slovakia's players and staff lined up, shoulder-to-shoulder, and celebrated in front of their supporters.

Belgium players react to conceding
Belgium suffered defeat against a team outside the top 45 of the Fifa world rankings for the first time since 2010 [Getty Images]