Belgium's tournament curse struck again as they were beaten by Slovakia in their opening match of Euro 2024 in Frankfurt, where Romelu Lukaku had two goals ruled out by VAR.

A mistake from Jeremy Doku helped allow Slovakia take the lead in the seventh minute, when Ivan Schranz fired home from close range.

Lukaku then had a close range effort ruled out for offside and a late goal disallowed after a handball from Lois Openda as the Belgians fumed.

Rarely has Belgium's ability to leave you both dazzled and despairing been as evident as it was inside the first seven minutes in Frankfurt, and inside the boots of Doku.

Not three minutes had elapsed when the Manchester City winger, playing on the opposite flank to where we usually see him for his club, magnificently burst away from two challenges, evaded a third and teed up a chance that neither Kevin De Bruyne nor Lukaku could take.

Then from the sublime came the slapstick. Timothy Castagne threw the ball back to Doku, who was instantly pressed by Robert Bozenik and Lukas Haraslin.

The way out, or so Doku thought, was to play it to Wout Faes, but it was farce and not Faes which took over, as Schranz nipped in, found Juraj Kucka and was then on hand to tuck in the rebound after Koen Casteels had saved Kucka's shot.

Belgium appealed in vain, but they were almost gifted a goal back when Martin Dubravka's weak kick went straight to Leandro Trossard, who could only fire over.

There was a sense that fear was beginning to grip Belgium, with ghosts of tournaments past haunting them and weighing them down.

Casteels needed to pull off a superb save to deny what would have been a fine goal from the impressive Haraslin, before Lukaku fluffed his lines with a heavy touch at the other end.

Lukaku was then thwarted three times early in the second half, the first by Dubravka, the second by VAR after being found by Amadou Onana's fine header, and then the third by the side-netting. When substitute Johan Bakayoko had a close range effort superbly cleared off the line by David Hancko the writing was on the wall.

Belgium were almost succumbing to their worst fears, and as De Bruyne dropped deeper in search of the ball he could be seen desperately trying to gee up his teammates who were rapidly becoming devoid of ideas.

Lukaku then thought he'd equalised when he fired home from close range, with a fan even joining in Belgium's celebrations, only VAR to intervene again after Openda's handball.

Not Belgium's day, and maybe not their tournament again.

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2024-06-17T18:03:27Z dg43tfdfdgfd