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Euro 2024 data dive: Finals first for misfiring Ronaldo as Ukraine make unwanted history

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 26 Jun 2024

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The Euro 2024 group stage came to an end on Wednesday as knockout football awaits in Germany.

Romania, Belgium and Slovakia all progressed to the last 16 as Ukraine were the unlucky losers after Group E became the first pool in European Championship history to see all four teams finish level on points.

Group F also provided a shock as Georgia stunned Portugal to achieve their first win at a major tournament and a place in the knockout rounds, while Turkiye overcame Czechia thanks to last-gasp chaos.

As the last-16 stage looms, we unpick the best of Wednesday’s action by taking a deep dive into the Opta data behind the final group-stage encounters.

Ukraine 0-0 Belgium: Woe for Rebrov in unwanted history

A battling performance for Ukraine will be scant consolation as Serhiy Rebrov’s side became the first team in the competition’s history to register four points in the group stage and finish bottom.

This goalless draw continued a bizarre Euros record, with Ukraine either not scoring (nine games) or scoring exactly two goals (five), after failing to score in two matches and winning the other 2-1 against Slovakia at this edition.

It could have been a different story for Belgium, though, as their struggles in front of goal persisted. They have failed to score in four of their last five group-stage games at major tournaments (W1 D2 L2).

The Red Devils had won nine group games in a row before this, scoring 21 times, and Romelu Lukaku – who has had three goals at this tournament ruled out – may apportion some of the blame.

Lukaku has now failed to score with any of his 15 shots in his last five group-stage matches at major international tournaments – in his previous five, the striker had found the net with seven of 12 attempts.

That persistent profligacy somewhat marred a landmark appearance for Lukaku, who along with Kevin De Bruyne equalled Thibaut Courtois’ 25-game record for the most Belgium appearances at the World Cup and Euros combined.

The former Chelsea pair will hope to respond in their last-16 meeting on Monday against France in Dusseldorf, where Didier Deschamps’ side must be wary of Jeremy Doku.

Manchester City winger Doku has registered 26 dribbles at the 2024 edition, the most by a player in the group stage since France’s Franck Ribery at Euro 2012 (32).

Slovakia 1-1 Romania: Veterans on show as Wolves end 24-year wait

Romania progressed past the group stages of a major tournament for the first time since Euro 2000, doing so as unlikely Group E winners after a 1-1 draw with Slovakia in Frankfurt.

Ondrej Duda’s early opener blew the group wide open and saw him become the first Slovakia player to score at two different major international tournaments, also netting against Wales at Euro 2016.

Juraj Kucka’s teed up that Duda header, marking his first assist at a major tournament in 14 years and two days, since against Italy at the 2010 World Cup. It’s the longest gap between assists at a World Cup/Euros on record for a European player.

Yet Razvan Marin was on hand to smash in a leveller from the penalty spot, scoring for a second time in his last three appearances across all competitions for Romania, as many as he managed in his previous 54.

Marin also became just the second Romanian to score multiple goals at a single edition of the European Championship (two), along with Bogdan Stancu, who found the net twice at Euro 2016.

It was a familiar route to goal for Romania, who have scored four of their last eight goals in this competition from the penalty spot. In fact, of all teams to net five or more goals in Euros history, Romania have netted the highest share from 12 yards (29 per cent – 4/14).

Slovakia will not be too disheartened by Marin’s thumping spot-kick, though, as they have now reached the knockout rounds in three of their four attempts at international tournaments.

Experience was a key factor, too, as this was only the second match in European Championship history to see four players aged 35 or older start (Peter Pekarík, Kucka, Martin Dubravka for Slovakia, Florin Nita for Romania), after the Netherlands versus France in 2008.

Georgia 2-0 Portugal: Magic Mikautadze outshines drab Ronaldo

Georgia became the first European nation to qualify from the group stage in their first major tournament since Iceland at Euro 2016 after the magic of Georges Mikautadze.

Mikautadze slotted in a second-half penalty after teeing up Khvicha Kvaratskhelia for Georgia’s fastest goal and the earliest Portugal have ever conceded in the competition, timed at one minute and 32 seconds.

With his spot-kick, Mikautadze has scored in all three of Georgia’s group matches, becoming only the ninth player to score in all three group matches at a European Championship.

The Georgian hero joined the likes of Michel Platini (1984), Ruud van Nistelrooy (2004) and Portugal’s own Cristiano Ronaldo (2021), who has not hit his usual heights this time.

Ronaldo failed to score in the group stage of a major international tournament for the first time in his career. Prior to this tournament, Ronaldo had scored in all of the 10 group stages he had featured in since 2004.

It also marked Portugal’s first competitive defeat since the World Cup quarter-final defeat to Morocco in December 2022 and coach Roberto Martinez’s first such loss in charge of Portugal.

Portugal had triumphed in all 12 such matches under Martinez before that, and the Spaniard must stamp out some issues in his side.

Martinez’s men have received three yellow cards already for simulation, with Rafael Leao (booked against Czechia and Turkiye) and Pedro Neto (against Georgia) the offenders.

Czechia 1-2 Turkiye: Ill-disciplined carnage in Hamburg

Cenk Tosun delivered a 94th-minute winner to seal Turkiye’s progression to the knockout stages, but Vincenzo Montella’s side have to improve their discipline.

Turkiye have been shown 16 yellow cards at this tournament so far, the most ever by a team in a single group stage in the tournament’s 64-year history.

Some 11 of those came in this victory in Hamburg, where there were 18 cards shown in total (16 yellows, two reds), the most in a single game in the tournament’s history.

Antonin Barak became the first Czechia player to be sent off at the Euros since Radoslav Latal against the Netherlands in 2000. His dismissal, timed at 19:28, was also the earliest sending-off in the tournament’s history.

That left the football as somewhat of a sideshow to the chaos, with Tomas Soucek levelling after an opener from Hakan Calhanoglu, who has now made the joint-most European Championship appearances of any Turkish outfield player (eight), alongside Hakan Balta.

Soucek has also scored four goals across his last nine internationals for Czechia, and in scoring against Turkiye, he became just the fourth member of his nation’s Euro 2024 squad to score a goal at a major tournament (alongside Patrik Schick, Lukas Provod and Tomas Holes).

Yet that will be no consolation for Czechia, who have won just one of their last seven Euros matches (D2 L4) and have failed to win a match in a single edition of the tournament for just the second time, after 2016.

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