Match Report: Slovakia 1-0 Belgium, Euro 2024

An in-depth match report and analysis of Slovakia's shocking 1-0 victory over Belgium in their Euro 2024 Group E opener, focusing on key moments, VAR controversies, and the implications for Belgium's "Golden Generation"

Match Report: Slovakia 1-0 Belgium, Euro 2024

The Euro 2024 Group E opener between Belgium and Slovakia was supposed to be a routine victory for the star-studded Belgian side. But football has a funny way of defying expectations. In a match filled with drama, controversy, and a healthy dose of VAR, Slovakia pulled off a stunning 1-0 upset that has left Belgium's "Golden Generation" searching for answers.

The Match: Slovakia's Smash-and-Grab

From the opening whistle, it was clear that Slovakia had come to play. Their high-energy pressing and disciplined defense frustrated Belgium's creative players, denying them the time and space they crave.

And then, in the 7th minute, the unthinkable happened. Jeremy Doku's misjudged pass was intercepted, and Juraj Kucka's shot was parried by Koen Casteels straight into the path of Ivan Schranz, who made no mistake from close range. Slovakia had the lead, and they were determined not to let it slip.

Belgium, for all their possession and pretty patterns, couldn't find a way through. Romelu Lukaku, usually so reliable, squandered chance after chance. At the other end, Lukas Haraslin came close to doubling Slovakia's advantage. The half-time whistle blew with Belgium trailing and scratching their heads.

The Controversy: VAR Takes Center Stage

The second half saw Belgium throw everything at Slovakia. But every time they thought they had found the equalizer, VAR had other ideas.

First, Lukaku had a goal ruled out for offside. It was tight, but the decision was correct. Then, in the dying minutes, Lukaku thought he had rescued a point, slamming home after good work from Loïs Openda. But again, VAR intervened, spotting a handball from Openda in the build-up. Belgium's celebrations turned to anguish. Slovakia held on for a famous victory.

The Fallout: Questions for Belgium

For Belgium, this defeat will sting. This is a team laden with talent, a side that has been tipped for major tournament success for years. And yet, once again, they have fallen short when it matters most.

Questions will be asked of Roberto Martínez, the coach who has struggled to get the best out of this golden generation. But the players, too, must take responsibility. Lukaku's wastefulness, Doku's defensive lapse, the general lack of cohesion - these are issues that run deeper than tactics or team selection.

Slovakia, meanwhile, will be jubilant. This was a victory built on grit, determination, and a refusal to be cowed by reputations. Milan Škriniar was immense at the back, Ivan Schranz took his chance when it came, and the whole team worked tirelessly to protect their lead. Coach Francesco Calzona will know that tougher tests await, but this win will give his side immense belief.

Conclusion: A Wake-Up Call for Belgium

In the end, this match will be remembered for Slovakia's heroics and Belgium's failings. It is a result that blows Group E wide open and raises serious questions about Belgium's ability to finally deliver on their undoubted potential.

For the "Golden Generation", time is running out. They have one more chance, perhaps, to make their mark on the international stage. But if they are to do so, they will need to learn the lessons of this chastening defeat, and fast.

Slovakia, on the other hand, can dream of a deep run in this tournament. They have shown that they have the resilience and the quality to upset the odds, and they will fear no one after this result.

Football, as ever, has proven its ability to surprise and delight. And in Slovakia's stunning victory over Belgium, we have a result that will echo through the ages. The Euro 2024 has its first major shock. It is unlikely to be the last.