STUTTGART (Germany), June 25 — Belgium head into their final Group E game against Ukraine at Euro 2024 looking to grab top spot in a section where all four teams — including Romania and Slovakia — are level on three points.

It is the first time in the tournament’s history each team in the same group has had the same number of points going into the last round of games.

Belgium brushed off a surprise 1-0 loss to Slovakia in their opening match by beating Romania 2-0 as Kevin De Bruyne delivered a timely masterclass with his team at risk of another early elimination.

There is still work to be done in Stuttgart for Belgium, who saw key members of a golden generation move on after the country’s group-stage exit at the 2022 World Cup.

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But with De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku still around, coach Domenico Tedesco is confident his team can go far if they get through to the knockout phase.

“We have an extreme amount of potential,” Tedesco said after the Romania game.

How Belgium fare most likely depends on their ability to convert chances, with Lukaku having three goals disallowed already in Germany after VAR interventions.

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“I think the most important thing is to create chances. That’s what we did the last two games... If we finish our chances there will be no problem,” said winger Jeremy Doku.

Lukaku has received the backing of his team-mates who believe the goals will come for Belgium’s all-time record scorer.

“He didn’t have a lot of luck, but he’s happy because we won the last game. As a striker you always want to score, but he’s happy with the impact he’s having on our team and the chances he’s creating,” said Doku.

“Of course he would have liked to have the goals because now when he scores I think he’s scared to celebrate.”

Ukraine playing for greater cause

Ukraine are playing in their first major tournament since Russian forces invaded the country in 2022.

They recovered from an opening 3-0 defeat by Romania, coming from behind to edge Slovakia 2-1 and earning the congratulations of President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Ukraine reached the quarter-finals of Euro 2020 but a lot has changed since then in a country ravaged by war and engaged in the largest European conflict since World War II.

“The players showed the spirit of Ukraine on the pitch,” coach Serhiy Rebrov said after Roman Yaremchuk’s winner revived Ukraine’s campaign.

“It was a very important win for Ukraine and for our country.”

No team with four points has ever failed to advance to the last 16 since the tournament was expanded to 24 teams, but Ukraine would miss out on goal difference if both Group E games on Wednesday end in draws.

Slovakia and Romania face off at the same time in Frankfurt knowing a point apiece would be enough to send both countries into the next round.

After beating Ukraine for their first win at a major tournament since Euro 2000, Romania fought gamely before going down to Belgium.

Edward Iordanescu’s side need just a point against Slovakia though to guarantee a top-two finish.

“Now is the moment of truth. Let’s see how we deal with difficulties. We need solidarity and unity,” said Iordanescu.

“We are still top of the group. We have what it takes to write history for Romania.”

Slovakia also have qualification within their grasp and can finish top if they win and Ukraine do not. A draw would assure them of third place.

“We’re the Cinderella of the group. Already playing here and trying to get out of the group is a great achievement,” said coach Francesco Calzona, the Italian who took charge of Napoli for the final few months of last season. — AFP