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Euro 2024 Day 4 recap – France win, Romania shine, Belgium disappoint

The 2024 European Champions was fairly straightforward with few shocks during the first three days of the tournament.

Day 4 was the day that changed, beginning with Romania’s thumping of Ukraine. Many people fancied the latter as dark horses, but they were condemned to a 3-0 defeat thanks to goals by Nicolae Stanciu, Razvan Marin and Denis Dragus.

This was followed by another surprise result, as Belgium slipped to defeat in their opener against Slovakia due to Ivan Schranz’s early strike.

There are 45 places between the two sides in the FIFA World Rankings, making this the biggest shock in the history of the European Championships.

That’s where the surprises ended for the evening, as France picked up three points against Austria. Ralf Rangnick’s men made things difficult for Les Bleus, but Maximilian Wober’s own goal was the difference.

Standout Performer – Nicolae Stanciu

Not a whole lot was expected of Romania heading into the tournament. But they made an early statement with a brilliant display and result against Ukraine.

Stanciu was the main man for the Tricolorii, opening the scoring with one of the goals of the tournament.

Following goalkeeper Andriy Lunin’s weak clearance, the midfielder thundered an unstoppable first-time finish into the top corner from distance.

The victory was only Romania’s second in European Championship history, with the other coming against England 24 years ago. One more point will likely see them through to the knockout stage.

Poorest Player – Romelu Lukaku

Romelu Lukaku is the sixth all-time top goalscorer in international football, behind only Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Ali Daei, Sunil Chhetri and Mokhtar Dahari.

However, many people know him best for the chances he didn’t take.

In his last appearance at a major tournament, the former Manchester United man missed four clear-cut chances as Belgium were eliminated from the World Cup.

Lukaku picked up where he left off yesterday, wasting several more opportunities to get on the scoresheet.

He fired straight at the goalkeeper from six yards out in the first two minutes. Moments later, he went through on goal, but his touch escaped him as he tried to round the goalkeeper. He repeated this action again shortly before half-time.

The forward looked a little sharper after the break, seeing one shot well saved and having a tap-in ruled out due to a tight offside from Amadou Onana’s header.

However, had he not touched the ball, it’s likely that Onana’s effort would have hit the net anyway.

Lukaku appeared to have redeemed himself late in the game with a cracking finish from Lois Openda’s cutback.

But his celebrations were short-lived, as VAR chalked off the goal due to a handball in the build-up.

Perhaps it’s harsh to single out Lukaku – a debatable handball decision and a tight offside denied him a brace.

But there is little excuse for the opportunities he squandered in the first half. The pressure will be on him to turn things around in the coming matches.

Talking Point – France get the job done

As one of the leading contenders for the crown, many people fancied France for a comfortable win in their opener against Austria.

Our first glimpse of the two-time champions didn’t show them at their best, but is this cause for concern?

A 1-0 victory thanks to an own goal isn’t exactly going to get the blood pumping, nor strike fear into the hearts of rivals. Nonetheless, manager Didier Deschamps will be happy enough with the outcome.

They weren’t at their absolute best, but they still showed enough to prove that they remain a force to be reckoned with.

Kylian Mbappe and Marcus Thuram missed opportunities to add to the scoreline, while they came under little threat at the back apart from one glorious chance for Christoph Baumgartner in the first half.

The biggest positive was N’Golo Kante’s performance. He looked back to his best in the middle of the park.

Despite being 33 years old and spending the last year in the Saudi Pro League, the World Cup winner proved that he still has plenty left to offer.

Kante has proven to be a vital player in several winning teams during his career. When he is at his best, he elevates his team to a different level. If he can keep this up, France will be very tough to beat.

Up Next

Georgia are playing at their first ever major tournament and face Turkey.

The Crescent Stars will be hoping for a major improvement on their Euro 2020 showing, where they collected no points and scored just one goal.

The first round of fixtures ends with one of the favourites facing a potential dark horse.

Portugal has one of the most star-studded squads in the tournament, spearheaded by Cristiano Ronaldo, the competition’s all-time top goalscorer.

But they shouldn’t underestimate Czechia, who reached the quarter-finals three years ago.

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