Belgium advances to last 16 at Euro 2024 after 0-0 draw, Ukraine eliminated

STUTTGART, Germany (AP) — Belgium got the best out of a 0-0 draw at the European Championship on Wednesday, advancing to the last 16 while Ukraine became the first team with four points in a group to be eliminated.

The downside for the Belgians at Euro 2024 is they will next face France and Kylian Mbappe on Monday in Duesseldorf.

“We go to win. We are here and qualified for this Euro to be part of the best teams. Now, we face a top team,” Belgium coach Domenico Tedesco said. “That’s why we qualified, otherwise we could stay at home. These are the games we’re looking for, and everything is possible.”

All four teams in Group E finished with four points. Romania ended up first, followed by Belgium and Slovakia. Ukraine was last on goal difference.

Romania and Slovakia drew 1-1 in Frankfurt and both advanced to the knockout stage.

Playing at Euro 2024 against the backdrop of Russia’s invasion, Ukraine came agonizingly close to advancing and will finish with more points than at least one of the four best third-place teams. The 3-0 loss to Romania in the team’s opening game proved to be decisive.

“In the last two games, we showed the character of our nation. But this is life, you make some mistakes, but then it’s important how you react,” Ukraine coach Serhiy Rebrov said. “I’m very proud of the players. Of course, everyone is unhappy with the result, but there are no questions for the players.”

There was nearly a different ending when Ukraine substitute Ruslan Malinovskyi tried to score directly from corner late in the match. Belgium goalkeeper Koen Casteels managed to save the effort at the near post.

The third-ranked Belgians had another scare when Georgiy Sudakov ran into the box but shot right at Casteels.

Belgium, which lost to Slovakia in its opening game, struggled to get its offense going again with Romelu Lukaku failing to make the most of his team’s best chance in the first half.

The Belgian fans booed their players at the end of the game at Stuttgart Arena, while Ukrainian supporters, who earlier held up a banner of a fallen soldier named Nazariy Hryntsevich, showed their appreciation to the national team.

“We wanted to bring them joy, to make them proud. We left it all on the field, but it wasn’t enough,” Ukraine defender Oleksandr Tymchyk said.

Belgium will likely need to improve against France, which was the runner-up at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

While the French have also been unconvincing, Belgium was expected to advance with ease from a group without any of the traditional European soccer powerhouses.

“This group was tougher than many thought,” Tedesco said. “On paper, you can be favorites, but you have to play the games and these teams have absolutely nothing to lose.”


AP Euro 2024:

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