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Belgium into last 16 as draw sends Ukraine out of Euro 2024

Ukrainian supporters display a banner with the portrait of their country's fallen soldier and football fan Nazariy Hryntsevich during the UEFA Euro 2024 Group E football match between Ukraine and <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/soccer/teams/belgium/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Belgium;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Belgium</a> at the Stuttgart Arena in <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/soccer/teams/stuttgart/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Stuttgart;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Stuttgart</a> on June 26, 2024. (Fabrice COFFRINI)

Belgium qualified for the last 16 of Euro 2024 on Wednesday after a 0-0 draw with Ukraine, who exited the tournament despite all four teams in Group E finishing level on four points.

Romania took top spot ahead of Belgium after scoring more goals in the group following their 1-1 draw with Slovakia, who also go through as one of the four best third-placed sides.

Belgium supporters reacted furiously at the final whistle in Stuttgart, with captain Kevin De Bruyne appearing to tell his team-mates not to go over to applaud them as the whistles and jeers grew louder.

"We are a little bit surprised," said Belgium coach Domenico Tedesco.

"If the fans are whistling we have to accept. We can't be disappointed. We are qualified which is the most important thing today."

They will play France in the next round and have landed themselves on the tougher side of the draw which also features hosts Germany, Spain and Portugal.

"We won't be favourites against France but we know during a tournament you have to play the best," said De Bruyne.

War-torn Ukraine's brave run came to an agonising end as they became the first team since the tournament increased to 24 teams not to progress with four points.

"A strong nation is one that remains united and supports each other at all times. Both in times of defeat and in times of victory," Ukrainian President Volodymyr wrote on Telegram.

"Today we thank the Ukrainian national football team. Despite the disappointing result, you fought for our country."

It was the first time ever at the European Championship all four teams in the same group had gone into the final round of games locked on the same number of points.

Leandro Trossard replaced the suspended Dodi Lukebakio for Belgium, wearing their kit which pays homage to the comic book hero Tintin, with pale blue shirts, brown shirts and white socks.

Ukraine were without wingers Mykhailo Mudryk and Viktor Tsygankov because of injury, switching to three at the back with Oleksandr Zinchenko dropping out and Roman Yaremchuk starting after scoring the winner as a substitute against Slovakia.

- Ukraine fans honour fallen comrades -

Ukrainian fans unveiled a banner displaying the portrait of a 21-year-old soldier who died in battle last month, an image generated by artificial intelligence using the photos of 182 football fans also killed in combat.

"Peace has a price. Thousands of football fans have been killed in the war since February 2022," read an accompanying message, referring to the Russian invasion of Ukraine that started two years ago.

Romelu Lukaku, who had three goals ruled out in his team's first two games of the tournament, scuffed straight at Anatoliy Trubin early on when well placed after a slick through ball from De Bruyne.

Yaremchuk tested Koen Casteels and he might have given his team the lead if Artem Dovbyk had found him in the area after getting the better of Arthur Theate.

Twice De Bruyne was unhappy with a laser being pointed at his face as he took free-kicks, nearly catching Trubin out at the near post on one occasion.

He had another curling attempt held shortly after Yaremchuk fizzed a pass across the Belgium area while trying to pick out Dovbyk.

Lukaku saw a weak shot smothered by Trubin, who then beat away a much firmer strike from Yannick Carrasco as Belgium chased the goal that would have clinched first place in the group.

Ruslan Malinovskyi's corner left Casteels frantically scooping the ball to safety at his near post as a nervy finish ensued, Ukraine desperately needing a goal that Belgium knew would spell disaster for them.

Johan Bakayoko curled wide for Belgium and Malinovskyi's piledriver was blocked by Timothy Castagne, with Georgiy Sudakov unable to find a way past Casteels in stoppage time as Ukraine's distraught players slumped to the floor at the end.

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