Romelu Lukaku’s nightmare in Belgium’s defeat by Slovakia sums up his goalscoring career

Romelu Lukaku

Even before Romelu Lukaku became the first player to see a goal ruled out by football’s new ‘snickometer’, you sensed the game was up for Belgium and their imperfect 10.

That a man to have scored an incredible 85 times in 115 internationals heading into the European Championship conspired to waste a double hat-trick of chances against opponents who kept putting them on a plate just about sums up Lukaku’s goalscoring career.

Blaming his latest nightmare in front of goal on football’s newest Frankenstein creation would be as perverse, therefore, as some of the finishing he managed to produce. That included a tap-in chalked off by semi-automated offside technology which he would surely have scored even if he had not infringed.

Lukaku would already have 100 international goals to his name by now were he not so wasteful, and perhaps Belgium would also have finally won a first international trophy.

As it was, this felt like the beginning of the end for what remains of their much-vaunted but ultimately flawed ‘Golden Generation’, as Slovakia inflicted the first major upset of Euro 2024.

Not that anything should be taken away from the heroics of a country who secured arguably their greatest victory since they stunned defending champions Italy at the 2010 World Cup, their first tournament as an independent nation.

This triumph put their subsequent Euros wins against Poland and Russia in the shade and gave them every chance of qualifying for the knockout stages.

The same cannot be said about the finishing of Belgium and Lukaku, who must rediscover their scoring touch in their last two games against Romania and Ukraine if they are to join their conquerors in the last 16.

The tone for the first Euro 2024 game at Frankfurt’s Deutsche Bank Park was set in the opening minutes when the Manchester City combination of Jeremy Doku and Kevin De Bruyne teed up Lukaku, who rushed a finish he sent straight at Martin Dubravka.

Doku was threatening to open up Slovakia at will but then an errant pass put his defence in trouble, allowing Juraj Kucka to fire in a shot Koen Casteels could only palm straight to Ivan Schranz. Thibaut Courtois, left at home amid an extraordinary feud with Belgium manager Domenico Tedesco, could have been forgiven a wry smile at Casteels’ misfortune.

Ivan Schranz scores as the Belgians plead for offside
Ivan Schranz scores as the Belgians plead for offside - Getty Images/Angelos Tzortzinis

Dubravka then went walkabout, presenting Leandro Trossard with a loose pass the usually reliable Arsenal man somehow conspired to loft over the crossbar instead of into the net.

At the other end, Casteels redeemed himself with a stunning save from Lukas Haraslin’s piledriver as Slovakia refused to sit on their lead.

Indeed, both teams were really going for it, with the fans in Frankfurt lapping up the action, and Lukaku should have given them another goal to celebrate just before half-time.

Yannick Carrasco’s gorgeous ball over the top simply begged to be put away but you somehow felt that Lukaku would find a way to poke it wide.

Belgium went into overdrive after the restart and it finally looked as though Lukaku had notched his 86th international goal when he slid the ball home from point-blank range. But his relief soon turned to despair when the match’s first technological intervention showed he had been narrowly offside.

It was becoming almost farcical, with Lukaku hitting the side-netting from close range again before it was the turn of Johan Bakayoko – only just on for Orel Mangala – to fail to equalise.

In fairness, he was only denied by a heroic goal-line clearance from David Hancko, who stayed down in his own net, prompting the patience of Belgium fans behind the goal to snap as missiles rained down from the stands.

Tedesco continued to make changes but kept faith with Lukaku and the manager celebrated wildly when he thought his striker had finally equalised with minutes to spare.

Late substitute Lois Openda raced away down the left before crossing for Lukaku to slot what looked like a perfectly good goal past Dubravka.

But, with Slovakia about to kick-off, referee Umut Meler was called to the pitchside monitor to check a potential handball by Openda in the build-up.

As he did so, television images showed something familiar to cricket fans but never before seen in football, a waveform showing a spike where the ball had brushed Openda’s hand.

Meler still had to decide that was enough for the goal to be ruled out but, after everything that had gone before, it seemed an inevitability.

When the final whistle blew and Slovakia’s players celebrated wildly, the two teams could have been forgiven for hardly believing what they had just witnessed – and so could anyone else.

Belgium 0 Slovakia 1: as it happened

07:00 PM BST


ITV’s ref expert: “It is a very debatable decision”

06:58 PM BST

Full time: Belgium 0 Slovakia 1

Slovakia have done it! That’s a fantastic result.

06:58 PM BST

90+ mins: Belgium 0 Slovakia 1

Belgium lack a certain je ne sais quoi. They don’t really look confident in their ability to score here.

06:57 PM BST

90+ mins: Belgium 0 Slovakia 1

Can Slovakia hold on? Suslov with a lung bursting run forward, that should buy them a few seconds if nothing else.

06:53 PM BST

90 mins: Belgium 0 Slovakia 1

With seven minutes of time to be added, Kevin De Bruyne surges into the area but his low shot is saved. Deflected actually by a defender’s boot.

06:52 PM BST


I have been to many games of football but I have never seen anything like this. Only Lukaku could be unlucky enough to have the first goal ruled out by football’s new snickometer.

06:46 PM BST

86 mins: Belgium 0 Slovakia 1

Lukaku has it in the net! But there is a check for a handball in the build up. Openda is battling for the ball with Vavro and it looks like he might have handled it... he crosses the ball and Lukaku sweeps it in. But a VAR check shows it to be handball. The Belgians will feel hard done by, not sure that the player made any move towards the ball with his hand. But snicko confirms it! Sadly no audio of Marais Erasmus saying  “rock and roll it please” but the correct decision made, by the letter of the law.

06:46 PM BST

86 mins: Belgium 0 Slovakia 1

Lukébakio has come on and is putting it about. Fouls.

06:44 PM BST

83 mins: Belgium 0 Slovakia 1

Belgian fans looking fed up in the stands and I’m not surprised.

06:40 PM BST

80 mins: Belgium 0 Slovakia 1

Belgium have a corner. Onana gets up but he cannot do anything much with the header.

06:38 PM BST

78 mins: Belgium 0 Slovakia 1

Kucka carries the ball a long way on the diagonal and then lets fly a rather tired shot. Hope Slovakia don’t gas here. They have given everything.

06:36 PM BST

77 mins: Belgium 0 Slovakia 1

Another sub, Strelec, has nearly bundled the ball in at the near post for Slovakia.

06:36 PM BST

76 mins: Belgium 0 Slovakia 1

Tielemans  is on to replace Trossard and his first intervention is to trip the breaking Suslov.

06:34 PM BST

73 mins: Belgium 0 Slovakia 1

David Strelec and Tomas Suslov on for Robert Bozenik and Lukas Haraslin, who really caught my eye.

06:33 PM BST

72 mins: Belgium 0 Slovakia 1

Lobotka with some heroic defensive work, standing up to both Doku and Lukaku and winning against them both.

Feels like the Slovaks are getting stretched now. Belgium asking a lot of questions.

06:28 PM BST

67 mins: Belgium 0 Slovakia 1

De Bruyne crackles into life with a blocked cross and now a searching set piece. Do they need more from him?

06:27 PM BST

‘Missiles and frustrations’

Belgium fans are throwing missiles onto the pitch after David Hancko stayed down following an incredible goal-line clearance from Johan Bakayoko’s shot. They should probably be directing their frustration elsewhere after yet another Lukaku miss.

06:23 PM BST

62 mins: Belgium 0 Slovakia 1

Belgium! Dear me. How many chances now!?

Doku beats Pekarik, they get a corner. Carrasco goes close with a volley. Now Lukaku has another chance but hits the side netting.

They get down the left, hard low cross. Bakayoko gets the ball in the box, controls, sets himself, fires at goal... and there’s a heroic clearance off the line. By Hancko. Who gets a whack on the head in the melee but he won’t care.

06:20 PM BST

59 mins: Belgium 0 Slovakia 1

Johan Bakayoko is replacing Orel Mangala as Belgium make the game’s first change.

Dubravka with a de3cent save as Trossard runs and fires from 20 yards.

06:15 PM BST

56 mins: Belgium 0 Slovakia 1

Belgium have the ball in the net and it’s that man Lukaku! Nice interplay with Trossard and the big man has bundled the ball in - but what’s this?! He’s offside. Oh dear oh dear.

06:15 PM BST

53 mins: Belgium 0 Slovakia 1

This is a really good match, again. I’ve definitely got full-blown Euros fever. A lot of the teams that you maybe were not all that excited about have been super fun and really up for taking it to the bigger names. Slovaks certainly in that group and they are enjoying a good spell of the ball.

Here’s Ben Rumsby: “If Slovakia do hold on here, it must surely go down as their greatest victory since they shocked Italy at the 2010 World Cup. Their only other victories at major tournaments came at the last two Euros against Poland and Russia, respectively. They also managed a goalless draw with England eight years ago.”

06:10 PM BST

48 mins: Belgium 0 Slovakia 1

There were, I should have said at the time, no personnel changes at the interval.

06:07 PM BST

46 mins: Belgium 0 Slovakia 1

Players are out for the second dig.

Belgium back off Haraslín, who is allowed to run at the defence and let rip with a stinging shot, wide.

06:05 PM BST

‘Could be 3-3!’

It’s 1-0 after a breathless first half but it could easily be at least 3-3. Imagine how many more goals Lukaku would have to his name if he didn’t miss chances like that. He would surely be pushing 100 at international level. It seems to be contagious as well, with the usually-reliable Leandro Trossard also guilty of missing one you would expect him to bury. Both sides are wide open and Slovakia could be further ahead, too. Can’t wait for the second half. There are surely more goals in this.

05:58 PM BST

Sheffield Weds manager

Danny Röhl is on punditry detail for ITV. Seems a very sensible chap.

05:51 PM BST

Half time: Belgium 0 Slovakia 1

Another highly enjoyable half in this excellent tournament. Courageous attacking, iffy defending. I wonder if some of these guys are a bit jaded by long seasons. Anyway, Slovakia have been bright and bold, Belgium disappointing. Even still, Lukaku should have two.

Here’s Ben Rumsby on the misfiring striker tip: “Lukaku has 85 goals in 115 Belgium caps. He’s sixth on the all-time list in international football, behind only Cristiano Ronaldo in the pantheon of European strikers. Just let that sink in after those incredible two first-half misses.”

05:48 PM BST

‘Slovakia should be 2-0 up’

He helped Napoli win their first Serie A title since the Diego Maradona days so it should hardly come as a surprise that Stanislav Lobotka is a class act for Slovakia. He is helping them take charge here and they are unlucky not to be 2-0 up, with Belgium’s defence all over the place. Casteels will feel better about himself, though, after a stunning save from Lukas Haraslin’s piledriver.

05:46 PM BST

45 mins: Belgium 0 Slovakia 1

Lukaku is through! Lovely long ball over the top and the big man is on to it. And the big man has bungled it. Carrasco’s glorious ball deserved a lot better than that cement mixer touch from RL. Took the ball away from himself and made it easy for the keeper.

A personal view and I am happy to be corrected but he never seems all that, to me. Literally 85 goals in 115 internationals. Astonishing record. I mean that should mark him up as an all-time great. I just don’t see it. Sorry, Romelu, if you’re reading.

05:43 PM BST

41 mins: Belgium 0 Slovakia 1

Lovely sweeping move from Slovakia, classy bit of control from Kucka, gets his head up and picks out Haraslin, who shows exemplary tekkers to strike a volley at goal. Tipped around for a corner.

As the play becomes fractured, Carrasco and Schranz vie for the ball. The latter is given a yellow card for his part in a tangle.

05:37 PM BST

34 mins: Belgium 0 Slovakia 1

Onana rises above all but can’t get a lot of purchase on his header.

05:36 PM BST

33 mins: Belgium 0 Slovakia 1

Belgium have a corner. There’s a wee delay while a Slovak player gets some treatment. Hancko, after a duel with Doku.

05:32 PM BST

30 mins: Belgium 0 Slovakia 1

Dubravka looks Belgium’s most likely source of a goal right now, the Slovak goalie keeps passing to the opposition.

05:30 PM BST

‘Both sides going for it’

This is the antithesis of the cagey, feeling-each-other-out, opening game of a tournament. Both teams are really going for this and the fans in Frankfurt are lapping it up.

05:27 PM BST

25 mins: Belgium 0 Slovakia 1

Bosenik’s had a dibble from the edge of the area and that’s blocked.

05:24 PM BST


The opening 20 minutes have been like a game of penalty-box pinball. First it was Slovakia’s turn to ride their luck when the Manchester City connection of Jeremy Doku and De Bruyne teed up Lukaku, who conspired to fluff a chance almost as glaring as that he missed in last year’s Champions League final when playing against his Belgium team-mates. Courtois could be forgiven for a wry smile when Slovakia then took the lead courtesy of Koen Casteels palming Juraj Kucka’s shot to Ivan Schranz.

05:23 PM BST

21 mins: Belgium 0 Slovakia 1

Slovakia keeper Martin Dubravka has come miles out of his area and given the ball away! Trossard has the whole goal to aim at but little time to do it and he fails.

Dubravka was once as solid as a rock but has been a bit flaky recently, perhaps demotion in favour of Nick Pope has rocked his confidence.

05:20 PM BST

18 mins: Belgium 0 Slovakia 1

Belgium are not at it and have conceded a cheap corner. Lukas Haraslin takes it but that’s dealt with.

05:19 PM BST

There was a VAR check

for the goal but nothing doing.

Ivan Schranz scores as the Belgians plead for offside
Ivan Schranz scores as the Belgians plead for offside - AFP

05:16 PM BST

Doku woe

05:15 PM BST

8 mins: Belgium 0 Slovakia 1

Chris Sutton on the BBC: “Early run from Jeremy Doku but it was actually an errant pass from him. Castagne was caught on his heels and Schranz finishes it really well inside the area.”

05:09 PM BST

GOAL! Belgium 0 Slovakia 1 (Schranz 7)

It was looking all Belgium, they threatened the goal again soon after that Lukaku moment but what do you know, it’s Slovakia who have the ball in the net.

Awful defensive dithering by Doku, who then seems to lose the ball and plays a terrible back pass across his own box! The ball is on a plate for Kucka, who cracks a shot at goal. Casteels parried it but there was Schranz to ram it home.

Not Doku’s natural habitat, there, and he just seemed to have a brain fade.

05:04 PM BST

2 mins: Belgium 0 Slovakia 0

Doku, man I love watching that guy play. He picks up the ball and pins his ears back, runs at the Slovaks who are absolutely bricking it you have to say. Slips it to de Bruyne and then onto Lukaku, who really should have put that past the keeper,. rather than right at him, from close range.

KDP lunged to shoot and it sort of inadvertently turned into a pass to Lukaku.

05:03 PM BST

1 mins: Belgium 0 Slovakia 0

Clive Tyldesley is on comms with Andros (as opposed to Andy) Townsend. Both sides look bright, up for it, plenty of vim and vigour as we get underway.

05:00 PM BST


belt out their anthem, I’d say they’ve won that battle. Magnificent rendition, four thumbs up and some chips with mayo for all concerned.

04:57 PM BST

Anthem time

It’s the Slovakian lads who go first. They are all in white. There’s been quite a lot of pre-match hoopla and people flicking giant parachute/sheets around. It reminds me of the Whirl-y-Gig in Shoreditch Town Hall, although hopefully the players are not so shpongled as all that.

04:27 PM BST

TV coverage

What have you made of the BBC and ITV programming so far? Here’s my two cents.

David Moyes looked like a reluctant divorcee dragged out to a wine bar

04:21 PM BST

‘Golden Generation, Last Chance’

It has become a cliché in recent tournaments but Euro 2024 really could be the last chance for Belgium’s ‘Golden Generation’ to win the country’s first major trophy. Well, what’s left of them anyway. Of today’s starters, only Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku remain from the galaxy of stars that helped propel the nation to top the Fifa rankings for more than three years. Their best chances to convert that into silverware have arguably come and gone amid a succession of semi- and quarter-final exits at major tournaments.

An extraordinary feud between coach Domenico Tedesco and star goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois that has seen the latter left at home has hardly helped their cause. Assuming they don’t pull off a shock in Germany, and given the country’s other near misses in the 1980s, you could make a strong case for Belgium being the ‘best’ nation never to win anything.

04:18 PM BST

Are you having a flutter?

Betting on the game? Take a look at these Euros betting offers and free bets.

04:16 PM BST

Who will win?

04:15 PM BST

Team analysis

Belgium’s Yannick Carrasco starts. The versatile Atletico Madrid left-sider comes into the XI, the only change from the side that beat Luxembourg 3-0 in what was surely a deeply low key friendly the other day.

The Slovakians are unchanged from the side who walloped Wales the other day.

04:11 PM BST

Football Fwends

Belgium vs Slovakia: latest updates from Euro 2024 Group E
Belgium vs Slovakia: latest updates from Euro 2024 Group E

04:06 PM BST

‘Middle of nowhere, but great transport’

Day four of the European Championship and it’s Belgium and Slovakia’s turn to try to light up the tournament. Frankfurt is also making its Euro 2024 debut, which will be of interest to England fans given the country’s next match is here against Denmark on Thursday following the chaos to engulf their opening win against Serbia in Gelsenkirchen.

Having been at Sunday night’s game before travelling here (who needs sleep anyway?), I bring good and bad news from Germany’s financial capital. The bad is that, like the VELTINS-Arena, Deutsche Bank Park is in the middle of nowhere. The good is that the difference in the public transport network here is night and day compared to Gelsenkirchen.

Belgium and Slovakia fans travelling to today’s game took particular joy in hearing announcements being made in their native languages. One caveat is do not make the mistake of arriving at the stadium on the ‘wrong’ side if you have a designated entrance. The outer perimeter is enormous and it took me 45 minutes to walk to the correct entry point.

04:05 PM BST

We will

be getting updates throughout the evening from our eagle-eyed newshound Ben Rumsby.

04:01 PM BST

The teams

Belgium: Casteels, Castagne, Debast, Faes, Carrasco, Mangala, Onana, Doku, De Bruyne, Trossard, Lukaku. Subs: Theate, Vertonghen, Witsel, Tielemans, Kaminski, Sels, Lukebakio, Vranckx, De Ketelaere, Bakayoko, Openda, Vermeeren, De Cuyper.

Slovakia: Dubravka, Pekarik, Vavro, Skriniar, Hancko, Kucka, Lobotka, Duda, Schranz, Bozenik, Haraslin. Subs: Obert, Rigo, Gyomber, Suslov, Tupta, Benes, Rodak, Hrosovsky, De Marco, Strelec, Duris, Bero, Ravas, Sauer, Kosa.

Referee: Halil Meler (Turkey)

03:19 PM BST

Belgium enter the arena

Good afternoon, hope you’re having a tolerable Monday and that you can bunk off work/school/duties to follow this live blog with us, in which Belgium play Slovakia in a 5pm kick off. The fixture is in group E; earlier today we had Romania against Ukraine in the same section, and the Romanians very much had the better of it.

All four teams in this group have come into it with a chance of qualifying but obviously it’s De Rode Duivels who are the highest ranked. For several years, it looked like the were going to crack the code and win a tournament, indeed they were ranked one in the world for a time. They had the likes of Eden Hazard, Vincent Kompany, Kevin de Bruyne, Thibaut Courtois, Romelu Lukaku, Jan Vertonghen, Axel Witsel, Mousa Dembélé, Dries Mertens, Toby Alderweireld etc etc. Basically a really top collection of players, but they’ve underperformed and third place at 2018 was as good as it got. They DNQ from their group in WC 2022. Two Euros quarterfinals. It’s all a bit Englandy, you have to say. Not all of the stars of a few years ago have retired, of course: KDB, Lukaku and Youri Tielemans are still high class operators but whether the whole can be the sum of its parts is dubious. Anyhow, we will know which 11 brave Belgians and true will carry the fight to Slovakia when the teams are named sometime before 4pm.

The Slovakians come into this on the back of a 4-0 win over Wales. They qualified in second place from group J, which Portugal ran away with. Goals might be the issue for Slovakia, only two players in their squad have double figures in national colours (Juraj Kucka, the veteran from Slovan Bratislava has netted 14 times in 107 appearances and Verona’s Ondrej Duda 13 in 72). But there are several familiar names with good careers and experience at decent clubs, including Newcastle United goalie and PSG’s imposing stopper Milan Škriniar, who is the captain.

The action comes to us from the Frankfurt Arena where the weather is around 70 degrees but there are some showers around.