Lacklustre England held by Denmark at Euro 2024

DUESSELDORF, Germany: Slovakia will face Ukraine in their second European Championship Group E match on Friday in Düsseldorf. Slovakia is second in goal difference behind Romania and last is Ukraine. Romania and Belgium play on Saturday.
Ukraine suffered a shock 3-0 loss to Romania that included costly mistakes by Real Madrid goalkeeper Andriy Lunin. Another loss could mean elimination for Ukraine, which was a quarter-finalist in 2021.
The Ukrainian players apologized to their fans for the loss in Romania and held a team meeting in the locker room after that game without coach Serhii Rebrov present to find out what happened. That was “absolutely normal,” the coach said Thursday.
Slovakia are riding high after surprising Belgium 1-0, but needed two video reviews to break Belgium’s goals. One was considered offside and the sensor in the ball detected a handball in the second.
The Slovaks know how not to get too excited about the initial win. They beat Poland at the last European Championship, but then lost to Sweden and Spain and did not progress. That meant that when Slovakia beat Belgium this time, there was only “a bit of euphoria for a few short hours”, coach Francesco Calzona said.
Ukraine coach Rebrov hinted he would make changes to the squad that lost to Romania, saying some unnamed players had suffered “micro-injuries”.
Defender Vitaly Mykolenko suffered heavy bruising in a pre-tournament friendly against Moldova and was an unused substitute against Romania but was expected to train with the team on Thursday night, Rebrov said.
One of the options for Rebrov could be the exchange of 34-year-old captain Taras Stepanenko in the defensive midfield for 22-year-old Volodymyr Brazhko. Brazhko did not make his debut for the team until March, when Ukraine qualified for Euro 2024 through the play-offs.
Slovakia coach Calzona said that all his players are available, but he has yet to decide on his starting line-up.
The average age of Slovakia’s starting eleven in the win over Belgium was over 30 years old, when the team relied on the experience of two 37-year-old defenders, Petr Pekárik and Juraj Kucka, and 35-year-old goalkeeper Martin Dúbravka. Ukraine’s players against Romania were on average four and a half years younger.
The teams have a fairly balanced record, three wins for Slovakia, two for Ukraine and three draws. Slovakia won the last match in 2018 4:1.
A second victory would go down in the history of Slovakia, who have never won more than one game in any tournament they played as a separate nation. However, they won the 1976 European Championship as part of Czechoslovakia.
“We want to turn the page and concentrate 100 percent on the match against Slovakia… (The match against Romania) is a very painful result for us, but we have to learn and prepare for tomorrow’s match,” Ukraine left-back Oleksandr Zinchenko said.
“I think our greatest quality is humility. We know that we always have to give 110 percent because we are a small nation and we always want to put a big smile on the faces of our fans and our people,” said Calzona.
Slovak defender David Hancko said: “Ukraine has amazing, young, talented players. They have a good system, they are strong on the ball. … We have to play the best we can to beat them.”

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