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Belgium frustrated by VAR, Lukaku misfires in Euro opener

Belgium’s Euro 2024 journey began with a shocking 1-0 defeat to Slovakia in Frankfurt on Monday.

Domenico Tedesco’s team, despite creating numerous chances, fell short after a controversial VAR decision disallowed a late equalizer from Romelu Lukaku.

Slovakia took an early lead through Ivan Schranz’s seventh-minute strike. Belgium dominated possession and carved out opportunities, but Lukaku’s finishing touch deserted him. The Chelsea striker had a goal disallowed for offside in the first half and then a dramatic late strike ruled out for handball via VAR, a decision that left Tedesco speechless.

“It’s tough to speak,” admitted Tedesco. “If we had won I could tell you more about my opinion. But we lost and I want to be seen as a fair manager so I don’t say anything. We have to trust these guys [VAR officials]. I trust the VAR. If they decide it’s handball, we have to accept it.”

This defeat marks the end of Belgium’s 15-game unbeaten run and Tedesco’s first loss as manager. The manager, however, refused to dwell on the negatives and stressed the importance of internal discussions.

“For me it hurts a lot tonight,” Tedesco said. “I don’t want to point the finger at people. You can be sure we will speak about many things but we will do it internally and not through the media.”

While acknowledging the disappointment, Tedesco expressed confidence in his team’s ability to respond.

“There is not much I can say to the team to improve,” he admitted. “We created many chances, big chances. Of course if we take one, then it makes the game easier.”

Tedesco defended Lukaku, who endured a frustrating night in front of goal. “Romelu has been playing for Belgium for a long time,” Tedesco said. “He knows how to score goals, I don’t need to tell him that. He is a top class player with great character.”

Belgium faces a pivotal clash against Romania on Saturday, who thrashed Ukraine 3-0 in their opening match. Another defeat could jeopardize their chances of reaching the knockout stages.

“Naturally everyone is disappointed but you can harness that,” Tedesco concluded. “I always said our group would be very tricky and shouldn’t assume that we will go through.”

(Source: AFP)

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