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Tedesco expects spluttering Belgium to play without fear against Romania

<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> boss Domenico Tedesco (Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV)
Belgium boss Domenico Tedesco (Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV)

Belgium manager Domenico Tedesco insists his underachieving stars will play without fear in their crucial Euro 2024 clash against Romania.

Tedesco's side are fighting to avoid another disappointing appearance at a major tournament after suffering a shock 1-0 loss to Slovakia in their Group E opener.

Another defeat for Belgium at the hands of Romania in Cologne on Saturday would not mathematically eliminate them, but it would be a huge blow to their chances of reaching the last 16.

Having bowed out at the group stage of the 2022 World Cup and lost in the quarter-finals of the last two Euros, the star-studded Belgians are in danger of squandering their golden generation's latest chance of silverware.

Romelu Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne and Jeremy Doku -- the key players expected to fuel Belgium's challenge -- all failed to impress against Slovakia.

But Tedesco is confident they will rise to the occasion in the vital Romania showdown.

"We never think about losing. We think about winning. We want to achieve something important here," Tedesco said on Friday.

"If we pass the group stage, then I have a good feeling about us.

"Losing to Slovakia hasn't changed something in our mind. The atmosphere in the squad is really good. Everybody is performing well and in a good mood."

Tedesco is adamant Lukaku, who has 85 goals for his country, will be back to his best against Romania despite his dismal finishing in the Slovakia loss.

"We spoke yesterday alone after the training session. We always speak because he is one of the main players. It is important what he is thinking," he said.

"We have a really good exchange of information. We don't just speak because of missed chances. He can do more of course, but we can't expect six goals from six chances."

A Belgium win this weekend would leave all four teams on three points heading into the last two group games.

While Belgium -- third in FIFA's world rankings -- will be favoured to beat 47th placed Romania, Tedesco was impressed by their 3-0 win against Ukraine on Monday.

"Even the fans that didn't know Romania until last week, now they know them. It was a big victory against Ukraine," he said.

"It is not that easy to win 3-0 against Ukraine. We were aware of them already. They didn't lose one game in the qualifiers and beat Switzerland at home in a big game at the end.

"We are not afraid of anybody but we have respect for Romania. Every team in the Euros is here for a certain reason. There is no doubt about their quality."

In a blow to Belgium's chances, Tedesco revealed Atletico Madrid midfielder Axel Witsel will be sidelined for a second successive game as he struggles to recover from injury.

"Axel could not travel because he had some discomfort in the same area as before," he said.

"I think his tournament is not over. He'll have an MRI tomorrow. The best decision for him was to stay at home. We can't take any risks."

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