Romania and Slovakia progress after four-way tie in Group E

Source: X

The teams started the match in Frankfurt amid scorching heat and ended it amid pouring rain. It was a bitter battle and chaotic in the end, where formations and shapes went for a toss. They scored a goal each and erupted in celebration after the final whistle. Romania and Slovakia both qualified for the last-16 stage of Euro 2024 following an unprecedented situation.

Group E saw all four teams finishing with four points. Romania topped the group for scoring more goals than Belgium, who qualified as the second-placed team following their goalless draw against Ukraine. Slovakia made the cut as one of the better-placed teams which finished third in the group. Ukraine suffered the rare tragedy of going home despite logging four points.

Slovakia enjoyed 60 per cent of possession in the first half and showed 100 per cent attacking intent. They kept pounding the Romanian defence with a barrage of attacks, although there were not many clear-cut chances. But the pressure they exerted forced errors from the Romanian defence and one such moment led to the first goal of the match in the 24th minute.

It was a swift move from the centre which saw the ball released down the right channel. In the blink of an eye, a cross was floated inside the box and three Romanian defenders just watched Ondrej Duda bury a header into the net. The midfielder was unmarked, but his leap and placement to the extreme corner past a diving goalkeeper was perfect.

Relying mainly on long-rangers for want of space inside the Slovak box, Romania were rewarded for an attempt to break into the 18-yard area in the 34th minute. Left-back David Hancko and many others thought that he had tripped an onrushing Ianis Hagi just outside the box. But VAR decided otherwise and Razvan Marin slammed the penalty into the top-right corner.

The complexion of the match changed in the second-half when both teams threw everything, including the kitchen sink, at each other. The football on display was not of the highest quality, but the action was gripping. Somehow, neither managed a clear look at the goal and resorted to shooting from a distance. This forced a few acrobatic saves which added to the excitement.

Romania were perhaps the better side in the final 45 minutes after being pilloried in the first half. It was a game where tactics and formations counted for little, as things came down do fierce fighting. Romania’s 4-1-4-1 or Slovakia’s 4-3-3 dissolved into something haphazard on a slippery turf and in the end, both sides were delighted for securing passage to the next round.