Euro 2024 updates: Belgium get booed, limp into round of 16

Euro 2024 is underway! Our daily files give you the latest reporting from around the tournament as well as betting lines, what to watch for and best reads.

Check in with ESPN throughout the tournament as we bring you the latest from Germany all the way up to the final July 14.

The lead: Dismal display sees Belgium through, but now will face France

STUTTGART, Germany — There was something quite sad and final about Kevin De Bruyne‘s stunned and angry reaction to being booed by his own supporters as Belgium‘s players attempted to thank their travelling fans for sitting through their dismal 0-0 draw against Ukraine in Stuttgart.

The Belgium captain started to take his teammates towards the end of the stadium which was a sea of red shirts, but he reached only the edge of the centre circle before turning around and directing the players off the pitch because the booing was so loud that the Manchester City midfielder clearly felt that it would do more harm than good to go any closer to the 15,000 Belgian fans.

But after 10 years of the country’s so-called Golden Generation promising so much and delivering so little, the fans had had enough after a performance so lacking in passion and ambition against Ukraine that they turned on the players.

Belgium had not been eliminated by Ukraine. Far from it. This goalless draw secured second spot in Group E and qualification, albeit for a round-of-16 clash against France in Düsseldorf on Sunday.

But Belgium were boring and dull and they played like an old team that had run out of energy and ideas. De Bruyne did his best to drag his side to victory, but he was fighting a lone battle as those around him — Romelu Lukaku, Youri Tielemans, Yannick Carrasco — all flattered to deceive.

Had Ukraine taken one of their chances in the final five minutes, when Serhiy Rebrov’s team poured forward in search of the goal that would taken them from the bottom spot to top, Belgium would have been eliminated.

But they held on, playing the ball into the corners late on in an attempt to kill the game. Rather than chase the win that would have clinched top spot and an easier tie than against their French neighbours, Belgium played it safe and that is what angered the fans.

This is a team that looks like it has run out of steam, and the players don’t look happy. But this is a team with plenty of talent, so maybe Belgium can show their real quality against France and get the fans back on their side.

But rather than that, it seems as though Belgium have one more game at this tournament and the fans will boo even louder when they get knocked out. — Mark Ogden

Sights and sounds around Euro 2024

Romania, Slovakia celebrate knockout rounds together

FRANKFURT — It’s not something you see very often. At the final whistle of Slovakia vs. Romania, both benches emptied and the players stormed the pitch in jubilation, while the entire ground — 80% in Romanian yellow, 20% in Slovak blue — bounced in the stands and sang their hearts out.

The teams’ 1-1 draw meant both had qualified. We knew ahead of time that, due to the vagaries of the format and the tiebreakers, a draw was always going to see both advance. Some — as evidenced by bookmakers offering very short odds on a draw — got cynical ahead of the game and suggested it was a classic case of a “prisoners’ dilemma”. Collaborate and tie the game and you both benefit. Try to win it and one of you will fall.

Except those cynics were wrong. Both teams tried to win this, and there was no shortage of crunching tackles (four Romanians were booked, including coach Edward Iordănescu) and in-your-face moments. It ended a draw because Peter Pekarík‘s picture-perfect cross found Ondrej Duda‘s head for the Slovak lead and the VAR judged that Dávid Hancko‘s foul on Ianis Hagi (son of you-know-who) was inside the box and Razvan Marin converted the ensuing penalty. Not because there was any evident collusion, not even in the final stages after the heavens had opened drenching the pitch and thunder rolled in the background.

The best news, however, came from the other game, as Belgium’s scoreless draw with Ukraine meant Romania won the group. They’ll face Slovenia or Netherlands next. As for Slovakia, their reward is a clash against England or Spain. No matter, both are in the knockout and both got to celebrate together in the streets of Frankfurt. — Gabriele Marcotti

Question marks for Portugal after defeat to Georgia

GELSENKIRCHEN — Portugal breezed into the last 16 as group winners after back-to-back wins against Czechia and Turkey, but they go into the knockout rounds with some doubts after suffering the largest upset, according to FIFA rankings, in European Championship history by losing 2-0 to Georgia. Make no mistake about it, this was Georgia’s night in Gelsenkirchen as the 74th-ranked team in the world beat the sixth best to make the knockout rounds for the first time at a major tournament. That will not make the defeat any easier to swallow for Portugal coach Roberto Martínez, though.

With the group already won, Martínez made eight changes to the side at the Arena AufSchalke. Quality players came in, such as João Félix and the match winner against Czechia, Francisco Conceição, but none of them delivered. Bruno Fernandes, Bernardo Silva and Rúben Dias will be among those who return for the next round, but it was concerning that the backup players were unable to make a difference against the lowest-ranked team in the tournament. Spain, two nights earlier, made 10 changes and still beat Albania.

The biggest issue, though, and the elephant in the Portugal dressing room, is whether Cristiano Ronaldo deserves to start in the last 16. The Ronaldo roadshow had rolled into Gelsenkirchen in the day, supporters clad in shirts from his former clubs chanting “Siiiuuu” (to which Georgia supporters responded with “Messi” songs) as they walked around the streets, but it did not extend to the pitch. The Al Nassr striker, now 39, was off the pace. He was taken off in the 65th minute, his only real contribution a free-kick which was punched clear and a booking for moaning.

It will be easy for Martínez to replace the other players who didn’t deliver against Georgia, with a stellar cast waiting to take back their places in the XI, but the Ronaldo call is a much bigger one. — Sam Marsden

Turkey snatch last-minute winner over Czechia

HAMBURG — Turkey have the attacking talent to worry anyone left in this tournament, but it’s debatable whether they’ve got the defence to go much further.

Needing only a draw against Czechia to guarantee a place in the round of 16, they made hard work of a game that should have been relatively comfortable. Czechia, already without star man Patrik Schick because of injury, saw Antonín Barák pick up the fastest Euros red card ever inside 20 minutes after he was booked twice in nine minutes and had to substitute goalkeeper Jindrich Stanek early in the second half.

But by the end of the game, with the score at 1-1, the frustration among the Turkish fans inside the stadium threatened to boil over as Czechia pushed for a winner that would have seen them go through. It wasn’t until former Everton striker Cenk Tosun made it 2-1 in stoppage time that qualification was assured. After a tense night that was occasionally bad-tempered, there was more disorder after the final whistle when players and staff from both teams were involved in a confrontation on the pitch. In the end, referee István Kovács gave out 18 yellows and two reds among the teams’ players.

With Hakan Çalhanoglu at the top of the midfield, Arda Güler playing off the right and Kenan Yildiz on the left, Turkey can score goals — something that bigger teams like France and England have struggled to do — but it will be a concern that they looked so vulnerable against 10 men. Turkey couldn’t deal with Vladimír Coufal‘s long throws into the box and were fortunate that a late goal from Jan Kuchta was ruled out when the referee spotted a push in the build-up.

They have already bettered their performance from Euro 2020, when they arrived with high hopes only to finish bottom of their group. Players like Çalhanoglu, Güler and Yildiz, plus the ferocious support they’re getting wherever they play, mean Vincenzo Montella’s team will be an awkward opponent for anyone in the knockout rounds, but they’ll have to defend far better if they’re going to come anywhere close to matching their run to the semifinals in 2008. — Rob Dawson

Saliba misses the bus

Leave no man behind … except if you play for France.

When Les Bleus reached their HQ in Bad Lippspringe just after 11 p.m. local time after their 1-1 draw against Poland in Dortmund on Tuesday night, they were a man down. Arsenal centre-back William Saliba was not on the coach which drove Didier Deschamps and his players back, as he was still at Signal Iduna Park in the doping control room.

Saliba was selected to be tested, but at 9 p.m. he still had not been able to provide a urine sample. So, as all the other players were ready to go, Deschamps decided to leave without him. The defender eventually departed the ground at 10.30 p.m. in a van with a member of staff to rejoin his teammates.

Now the group stage is over, the families of France’s players and staff are allowed to stay at the team hotel for the first time this tournament, so everyone has been very much been looking forward to it. The players are off until Thursday and will get back to training in the afternoon after their families leave at lunch time … assuming one isn’t left behind. — Julien Laurens



Leboeuf: Deschamps has to change France’s tactics in knockout stages

Frank Leboeuf reacts to France’s second place finish in Group D after their 1-1 draw with Poland at Euro 2024.

Alaba gives Austria the day off

Austria coach Ralf Rangnick got a surprise when he returned to the dressing room after fulfilling his media duties following his side’s thrilling 3-2 win over Netherlands on Tuesday.

During the celebrations after clinching top spot in Group D, David Alaba, who is in Germany as a “non-playing captain” amid a long-term injury, took it upon himself to reward the squad by cancelling a planned training session on Wednesday. It meant a quick reschedule, with Rangnick joking in his news conference that if Alaba had ordered a day off then he couldn’t argue.

It obviously went down well with the rest of the squad and midfielder Marcel Sabitzer, who was also in the news conference after being named Man of the Match, afforded himself a little smile when Rangnick revealed Alaba’s intervention.

Alaba isn’t officially part of the squad after he was ruled out of the tournament through injury, but has been on the sidelines alongside Rangnick for all three of Austria’s games. Maybe the Real Madrid defender is a manager in the making? — Rob Dawson

Croatia fan bitten while robbed of memento

Croatia supporter Lenard Barisic will never forget the night of June 24, 2024, and not just because he was in the crowd to see his team get eliminated from the Euros after conceding a goal with the last kick of the game in Monday’s 1-1 draw with Italy.

As some Croatia players came to applaud their travelling fans, winger Luka Ivanusec threw his shirt into the crowd and it was caught by Barisic. It was a souvenir that gave the 20-year-old, who is part of the Croatian Guards supporters group, at least one good memory of a disappointing night. But once outside Leipzig’s Red Bull Arena, he was attacked by three people who stole his shirt, including a woman who bit him on the shoulder so hard that she drew blood.

After reporting the incident to local police, who are investigating, Barisic posted his story and an image of his injury on social media. It soon went viral, to the point which news of the incident reached Ivanusec himself, and the Feyenoord player has pledged to send Lenard another jersey. — Julien Laurens

Stat of the day

Group C finished with just one match being won and only seven goals scored over the course of the six games played. Since the group stage was introduced to the Euros in 1980, this is the first tournament in which a group produced fewer than two wins. The total of seven goals scored is the joint-lowest, along with Group C at Euro 2016. — ESPN Stats & Information

Betting tip (odds via ESPN BET)

England are on the easier side of the Euro 2024 knockout draw, so maybe this is the best price you’ll get for them to win the whole thing? It feels wrong, but +350 on England is better than the +475 for France. — ESPN

One big read



Melchiot: Netherlands lacking bite at Euro 2024

Mario Melchiot debates what went wrong for the Netherlands in their 3-2 loss vs. Austria at Euro 2024.

Euro 2024 is unfolding like a classic horse race. First, you’ve got your speed horses jumping out front to set the pace — the underdog countries throwing haymakers and having a blast, the absurd shots of crowds singing in the streets en masse, the stories of 50,000 fans from Country A filling this stadium and another 40,000 from Country B filling that one. These stories have added a layer of absolute delight that few major tournaments have been able to match.

The stretch run now approaches, however. A lot of the underdogs have begun to bow out, and the heavyweights are jostling each other and jockeying for position. Virtually all of this tournament’s favorites have advanced to the knockout rounds — two-thirds of the 24 teams do, after all — and while they haven’t all looked amazing just yet, it’s the stretch run that matters.

With the round of 16 beginning on Saturday, let’s look at everyone who has qualified thus far and break down why they will win the Euros — or won’t. Eleven teams have qualified as of Tuesday evening, and we’ll know the five other teams after Wednesday’s action.

– Connelly: Why France, England and more will or won’t win Euro 2024

And finally …

Just after lunchtime on Tuesday, tennis legend Novak Djokovic was testing out his knee meniscus on the grass courts of Wimbledon. About six hours later, he was pitchside in Munich, dressed immaculately, to watch Serbia take on Denmark at Euro 2024.

The reception he got from the Serbia fans was incredible. The 37-year-old, who has won 24 majors, carried a presidential-type presence on the touchline before the match as he greeted backroom staff and wished each player well as they left the field.

“I am not a soccer expert, nor do I allow myself to say anything about tactics and the game itself,” the Serbian said on RTS. “But every minute is important, heart, pride, the desire to represent the country in the best way … The result is something that cannot be predicted, but when athletes give everything they have, then nothing can be blamed on them. Just looking at the stands is enough motivation for them to do their best, I wish them the best, we are all here for them, the nation is watching and following them.”

Djokovic also witnessed his own pre-recorded message to Serbian fans. One of the quirks in this tournament is UEFA putting together welcome videos from well-known figures from each country. Italy has men’s tennis world No.1 Jannik Sinner, England has the “Hardest Geezer” (who ran the length of Africa), while for Serbia, it’s Djokovic. He watched himself on the big screen as the crowd chanted: “Novak, Novak.”

“I am very pleased to be here to be one more fan for Serbia and enjoy the atmosphere,” Djokovic told RTS. “Team sports are different, but essentially things are the same. Preparation is already 50% of victory, the boys had four or five days to prepare. Every minute is important.”

Unfortunately Djokovic’s presence was not enough to inspire Serbia as they drew 0-0 with Denmark and exited the tournament. — Tom Hamilton.