Euro 2024: Shocked Belgium desperate for win against boosted Romania

COLOGNE, Germany (AP) — Belgium faces Romania on Saturday after suffering the biggest shock of the European Championship so far when losing its opening Group E game against Slovakia. The No. 3-ranked team in the world lost 1-0 and ended a 14-game unbeaten streak. Romania beat Ukraine 3-0 in its opening game to top the group. Kickoff is at 9 p.m. local (1900 GMT) in Cologne. Here’s what to know about the match:

Match facts

— Romania will advance to the round of 16 by beating Belgium. A draw is also likely to see it advance, with no team having failed to make the knockout round of the Euros with four points.

— Belgium’s shock defeat likely brought back bad memories of the 2022 World Cup when it was eliminated at the group stage in Qatar, despite having gone into the tournament ranked No. 2 in the world.

— Romania’s win against Ukraine was its first at a Euros in 24 years.

— Romelu Lukaku was the leading scorer in Euros qualifying with 14 goals, ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo (10), Kylian Mbappe (9) and Harry Kane (8). But he suffered a frustrating game against Slovakia when having two goals ruled out by VAR.

— Nicolae Stanciu was outstanding in Romania’s win against Ukraine and scored one of the goals of the tournament with a long-range effort. He also nearly scored direct from a corner kick, which hit the bar.

Team news

— Romania has not reported any injury concerns.

— Belgium’s Axel Witsel, who missed the first game against Slovakia, did not travel with the squad to Cologne after feeling discomfort in training. He will have scans to determine his condition, but coach Domenico Tedesco is hopeful his tournament is not over. Jan Vertonghen could be in contention to play.

By the numbers

— Lukaku is Belgium’s all-time leading scorer with 85 goals. His 14 goals in qualifying set a new record for the European Championship.

— Romania’s 3-0 win against Ukraine was its biggest ever at a Euros.

— The loss against Slovakia was Belgium’s first defeat under coach Domenico Tedesco, who took over after the last World Cup and has won 10 of his 15 games in charge.

What they’re saying

— “Rewatching the (Slovakia) game a few times, I’m convinced that we played well. If we score the first goal, many things are easier.” — Belgium coach Domenico Tedesco.

— “They are the No. 3 side in the world with great players and they really need a result. For us these are incredible experiences. … Our opponents are amazing, they had four or five big chances to score in their last match, but we are going in there to win it.” — Romania coach Edward Iordanescu.

— “Yes, we had a lot of opportunities to score in the last game. But we have a lot of room for improvement in our game against Romania. If we can put in some finishing touches with a bit more intensity, I think we can get a good result.” — Belgium defender Wout Faes.

— “It’s a difficult game, totally different from the first. However, we have courage, belief in ourselves, and we know what we can do.” — Romania midfielder Ianis Hagi.


AP Euro 2024:

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