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Belgium, hampered by VAR, miss out on their opening match against Slovakia (0-1)

The Red Devils completely missed out on their match but were not helped by two disallowed goals.

No time for observation in this Belgium-Slovakia clash. It only took two minutes to see the first acceleration from Jérémy Doku. He eliminated three men after a 60-metre run and tried to find De Bruyne who deflected for Lukaku, but the Red Devils striker was unable to finish the first chance of the match.

As Doku attempted a pass through the middle, on the edge of his own box, the ball came back to the penalty spot. Debast and Faes had no time to anticipate, in the face of Schranz’s fine deflection. Kucka shot, Casteels was in the way, but the author of the first deflection was well placed to deceive the Belgian goalkeeper. The Red Devils were caught cold after only eight minutes of play (0-1). The Manchester City winger tried to make amends two minutes later but the referee denied him a penalty for a not very obvious push.

With the Slovaks ahead, Belgium could not find a solution and almost let their opponents of the evening play the game for the next few minutes. The Red Devils did not create any chances, except perhaps Onana’s header from a De Bruyne corner, which Dubravka easily caught. Behind, Trossard played a perfect pass in depth for Lukaku, but the Roma striker missed his control and therefore missed his duel with the Slovak goalkeeper. That was it at half-time.

While the Slovaks didn’t show much, the Red Devils were reduced to swinging long balls at Doku or Lukaku, without success. Big Rom thought he had equalised from a good cross from Onana, from a corner, but VAR disallowed the goal for offside. The 31-year-old striker then tried his luck with his right foot a few minutes later, but found the side netting.

So solutions had to be found, and that meant coaching. Bakayoko saw his first chance repelled on the line by the Slovak defence. But Openda, often criticised in the national team, was to become a providential hero by accelerating down the left flank and setting up Lukaku who scored his second goal of the evening. And for the second time in the match, VAR cooled Belgian enthusiasm, this time for an involuntary handball from Openda at the start of the move…

Too messy in the final minutes, the Belgians did not create any more chances to equalise. They miss their entry into the tournament, after an insufficient performance but nevertheless tinged with a certain lack of success.

They will have to remobilise for the second match of the group. This will be on Saturday evening against Romania, a surprise winner earlier in the afternoon against Ukraine (3-0).

Written by Mike Stempel

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