Euro 2024: Missed chances make Belgium ‘suffer’ to the end

COLOGNE, Germany — Domenico Tedesco wants his Belgium team to be far more clinical in front of goal after they secured a key 2-0 victory over Romania in Cologne on Saturday.

After losing their opener 1-0 to Slovakia, Belgium secured the key win thanks to a goal after 76 seconds from Youri Tielemans and another in the 80th minute from Player of the Match Kevin De Bruyne.

But both goals bookended several spells of Belgian dominance where they had a host of chances, but failed to convert them. In total, Belgium had 20 shots on goal, with nine on target, but were made to work for the win.

They also had another goal disallowed, with Romelu Lukaku the unlucky party. It was his third disallowed goal in these Euros after two against Slovakia. This time around he was marginally offside for a second-half strike.

The result leaves Group E evenly poised, with all four teams heading into the final round of matches with three points apiece. But though Tedesco was pleased with the victory, he wants his team to be far more clinical in front of goal.

“We’re relieved we won the game, and we missed one or two chances and I’m not happy about that,” Tedesco said in his news conference. “It would be great if we could decide the game earlier on.”

He added: “It’s a pity — if you see the quantity and quality of chances in both games — now having scored two goals out of these two games, it’s less [than they should have]. It’s important to get the three points but scoring four or five goals tonight was possible.

“It’s already fantastic that we created these chances but we have to kill the game earlier for sure. If you don’t score the goals, you have to suffer until the end.”

Tedesco didn’t see any common theme with their wastefulness in front of goal across both matches, including their three disallowed strikes.

“I have to see the situations again — you can see it’s unlucky — millimetres offside, handball [against Slovakia]. Romelu has scored three goals, but three goals were cancelled and that’s also the little bit of timing, so of course it’s also luck and unfortunate.

“Sometimes the goalkeeper was great tonight in some circumstances, or the defender was saving the goal with last tackling, so it’s everything.”

For De Bruyne, he has zero concerns over Lukaku’s record at Euro 2024.

“He scored three times. Romelu had a great performance today, he was very generous and he gave Youri the ball for the assist,” De Bruyne said. “For me he scored the three goals, whether they were allowed or not.

“He’s here, he’s scoring. When you’re talking about two centimetres for an offside, there’s no frustration, he’s had a great tournament up to now.”

De Bruyne put in a brilliant performance as captain of Belgium and has talked about his leadership role in the team. He said post-match that one day he’ll call time on his international career and leave it to the next generation, but he hasn’t yet decided if this will be his final campaign.

“I haven’t thought about this,” he said. “I have been playing in the team for the past 10 years and I have knowledge to share with them but I haven’t thought about if this is end of the road for me. It’ll be up for the others to take over, but I don’t like thinking about when I’m retiring or my future.”

As Belgium turn attention to their final group match with Ukraine on Wednesday, Tedesco will have Dodi Lukebakio unavailable through suspension but hope to have Thomas Meunier available as he joins up with the squad in a couple of days having recovered from a muscle injury.

Arthur Theate asked to be substituted in the win over Romania with a knock, but should be fit. They are also waiting on scan results over Axel Witsel, who was absent from the squad for Saturday’s game, but they are optimistic he hasn’t suffered a serious setback.