Ukraine 0-0 Belgium (Jun 26, 2024) Game Analysis

Julien Laurens questions Belgium’s tournament credentials after a lackluster draw against Ukraine secures their qualification to the round of 16.

Belgium played out a nervy scoreless draw with Ukraine to eventually wrap up second place in Group E and set up a last-16 tie with France, with the Ukrainians eliminated on goal difference, finishing bottom of the group behind Slovakia.

Romania finish as group winners after they drew with Slovakia 1-1 in the other match. All teams finished on four points, but Romania pushed the Belgians into second on goals scored. Slovakia finished above Ukraine on goal difference to advance as one of the four best third-place finishers.

With all four sides locked on points as the final games began there was no margin for error, while a win would see any team through, and both sides went hunting for goals from the kick-off.

The best early chance fell to Romelu Lukaku, who was played in by a trademark defence-splitting pass from Kevin De Bruyne in the seventh minute, but as so often in this tournament, the striker fluffed his finish and the danger was easily averted, setting the tone for Belgium’s evening.

Stringing five across the back, defending was the focus for Ukraine and they did so all over the pitch, pressing hard and tackling aggressively, but not recklessly, as they sought to contain the Belgians.

They had chances of their own too, and Roman Yaremchuk will regret not being more selfish when he was played in and, rather than shooting, opted to square to Artem Dovbyk, but his pass was too hard and flew harmlessly across the goal.

By half-time all four teams in the group had still only gained a point, with the Romanians and Slovakians adding a goal each in a 1-1 draw in Frankfurt, and eventually Ukraine had to release the handbrake to go for victory.

A triple substitution by Serhiy Rebrov in the 70th minute didn’t quite have the desired effect however, and substitute Yannick Carrasco almost scored for Belgium with a stinging shot that was parried away by Anatoliy Trubin.

Malanovsky almost netted with a low corner whipped in at the near post but Koen Casteels was alive to the danger, and Taras Stepanenko headed over from the resulting corner as the Ukrainians increased the pressure.

Belgium could have snatched a late winner but Bakayoko curled his shot past the far post, and Georgiy Sudakov wasted a glorious stoppage-time chance for Ukraine after a storming attack through the middle, but he fired his shot straight at Casteels.

The referee’s whistle went, yet Belgian joy was short-lived as boos and whistles rained down from the stands after another unimpressive display, although they will at least have a chance to redeem themselves while Ukraine head home.

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