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Euro 2024: Slovakia pulls off greatest upset in competition history, downs Belgium 1-0

Slovakia Belgium Euro 2024
Sven Pfoertner/dpa via AP

Ivan Schranz’s goal in the seventh minute shakily stood through wave after wave of Belgian assault but was good enough to pull off the greatest upset in European Championship history at the very start of Euro 2024. 

Slovakia, ranked 48th in the world by FIFA, defeated third-ranked Belgium 1-0 on Monday afternoon to provide a shock in the opening round of Group E play at Euro 2024. It is the largest disparity in the rankings between an underdog winner and the favored team it upset. 

The result is the latest indignation for Belgium’s golden generation, which has entered major tournaments with sky-high expectations, but has always fallen short. Now it prepares for the second matchday of group action in third place out of four teams — Romania holding the top spot in the group after a 3-0 victory over Ukraine followed by Cinderella Slovakia. 

Belgium and star striker Romelu Lukaku had a pair of goals waved off in the second half following VAR checks. Lukaku — the country’s all-time leading goal scorer — had a headed goal from close range disallowed in the 57th minute because he was in an offside position. It appeared he found an equalizer in the 86th minute when he curled a left-footed shot from a low Lois Openda cross, but it was deemed that Openda helped play the ball down the left wing with a handball. 

Slovakia’s resolute defense managed to do just enough with the slim lead it was given, spurned on by the 37-year-old right-back Peter Pekarik, who played a full 90 minutes while helping keep the superstar Manchester City duo of Jeremy Doku and Kevin De Bruyne at bay. True to expectation, Belgium held 61% of the possession and out-attempted Slovakia 16-10.

“It’s a shame,” De Bruyne said after the match (h/t FOX). “The first 20 minutes were very good but we made a mistake. We had some chances in the first half, we adapted, we pushed, we created. Slovakia didn’t make many chances in the second half but we were unable to score.”

But Schranz threw expectations out the window inside 10 minutes when he took full advantage of a mistake at the back by Doku. After receiving a throw-in deep in his own territory, the Belgian attacker’s loose pass into his own box went in between his defenders and straight to Schranz, who backheeled a pass to Robert Bozenik. His shot was parried high into the air by Belgian goalkeeper Koen Casteels, but it fell right to Schranz at the left post where he cannoned his chance home from a tough angle. 

Belgium faces group-leaders Romania on Saturday in an attempt to get their Euros back on track while Slovakia takes on a Ukraine side desperate to stay in the competition.

For more on Euro 2024, visit AMNY.com