Slovakia didn’t take its loss to England so well at Euro 2024 as coach lashes out and captain cries

GELSENKIRCHEN, Germany (AP) — Their captain was reduced to tears. Their coach clashed with an England player and took aim at the referee.

Slovakia didn’t take its heartbreaking exit from the European Championship so well on Sunday.

“We needed 30 seconds and could celebrate, but that’s soccer, I’m speechless,” Slovakia captain Milan Škriniar said after his team conceded a stoppage-time equalizer to England and then lost 2-1 after extra time.

The pain was etched over Škriniar’s face and it was easy to understand why.

Slovakia was so close to reaching the quarterfinals of a major tournament for the first time since becoming an independent state in 1993 and from taking down another huge soccer nation at Euro 2024 in the process, having already beaten Belgium in the group stage.

Ivan Schranz’s 25th-minute strike put the 45th-ranked Slovakians ahead against England and it needed arguably the goal of the tournament — an overhead kick by Jude Bellingham in the fifth minute of additional time — to breach a defense that hadn’t until that point allowed a shot on target.

“They scored a goal from a player who is valued at 100 million euros. This was a team worth 1.5 billion (euros). You concede just half a meter and you will get punished,” Slovakia coach Francesco Calzona said. “So I don’t want to blame anyone.”

That, though, didn’t stop Slovakia’s Italian coach from having a pop at England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford for time-wasting and the referee for “always coming to our bench and never going to (England’s) bench.”

Indeed, Calzona went on the field seemingly to remonstrate with the match officials when he was involved in a confrontation with England midfielder Declan Rice.

Some pushing ensued and Rice was seen shouting at Calzona.

“Rice was supposed to go to the referees and say goodbye and leave. I wanted to speak to the referees,” Calzona said.

Slovakia’s players can leave Germany with their heads held high.

“I told the players they did a great job, they were fantastic,” he said. “We played on a par with all our opponents, played attacking football.

“Tonight we played against the team that many consider favorites to win the tournament. We were very close to making it, to qualifying for the quarterfinals and it disappeared with a few seconds to go.”


AP Euro 2024:

Copyright © 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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