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Euro 2024: Can Romania tame Ukraine?

June 15, 2024 16:49 IST
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Romania face tough test against experienced and motivated Ukraine

Euro 2024

Photograph: Kind courtesy Ukrainian Association of Football/X

While Romania cruised through the qualifying stages and topped their group, they face a stern test in their return to the European Championship finals after eight years when they take on an experienced and motivated Ukraine side on Monday.

Ukraine, making their fourth straight Euros appearance, have a talented squad with players such as Chelsea winger Mykhailo Mudryk and have a fierce desire to put on a performance to give supporters facing war at home something to cheer.

With manager Serhiy Rebrov's side appearing in their first major tournament since Russia's full-scale invasion in 2022, the former player underlined the importance of their opening Group E clash at the Munich Football Arena.


"I see a lot of kids supporting us when we play and it definitely gives our players extra motivation," Rebrov said. "Wherever we play we feel the support of all Ukrainians for whom football is a source of positive emotion."

A number of pundits have tagged Ukraine as a dark horse to make a deep run in the tournament.

Belgium are the favourites to win the group, which also includes Slovakia, but a clutch of world-class players such as Real Madrid goalkeeper Andriy Lunin, Arsenal full back Oleksandr Zinchenko and La Liga's top scorer Artem Dovbyk give Ukraine reason for optimism.

One area of concern for them, however, is in defence where Rebrov will be sweating on whether Everton left back Vitaliy Mykolenko can make a return to full fitness following injury.

Romania coach Edward Iordanescu will likely hold steady with a relatively inexperienced squad who nevertheless reached the Euro 2024 finals with an unbeaten qualifying campaign.

Iordanescu, whose father Anghel had three spells in charge of Romania and took them to the 1994 World Cup quarter-finals, will likely lean on Tottenham defender Radu Dragusin along with captain Nicolae Stanciu and defender Andrei Burca -- both based in Saudi Arabia.

"If every player plays their part, as I know this team are capable of, I am confident we can achieve great results through our performances," Iordanescu said.

Matured Belgium seek fast start against Slovakia


Photograph: Kind courtesy Belgian Red Devils/X

Rejuvenated Belgium hope to banish the memories of a dismal 2022 World Cup campaign fraught with issues on and off the pitch and extend a 15-match unbeaten run in their European Championship Group E opener against Slovakia on Monday.

The country’s golden generation were tarnished by a first-round exit in Qatar but, with several fresh faces in the team and some new energy, Belgium have been unbeaten since coach Domenico Tedesco took over in February last year.

They may be flying a little under the radar in Germany and no longer among the favourites in many people's eyes but if they keep cool heads in the changing room and their key players remain injury-free, then anything is possible.

Belgium have kept clean sheets in 10 of their 15 games under German-Italian coach Tedesco and have scored 33 goals themselves, with Romelu Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne and Jan Vertonghen the old heads among exciting young talents Jeremy Doku, Johan Bakayoko and Amadou Onana.

"The experience of Qatar has made us more mature and makes us look at a tournament differently," winger Yannick Carrasco told reporters.

"As a favourite, there is much more pressure. Being an outsider is beautiful but everyone knows we want to go as far as possible.

"There is a good atmosphere (in the squad) and a togetherness. We play board games, on the PlayStation. No-one stays in his room. Everyone is hungry and very motivated, young and old."

Belgium face a race against time to get key defenders Arthur Theate and Vertonghen fit for their opener, while veteran Axel Witsel, called out of retirement and shifted from the midfield to centre-back, is a doubt after he pulling up in training on Friday.

Fullback Thomas Meunier is definitely out of Monday’s clash, leaving Tedesco potentially thin on defensive options.

Slovakia produced a pair of 4-0 wins over San Marino and Wales in warm-up fixtures but Belgium will be a step up in quality for Italian coach Francesco Calzona.

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