Romania Tops Group as Belgium scrapes Through

What in the world is going on in Group E?

It genuinely feels as though each member of the group had a pact agreed at the launch of the tournament, but one of them found out too late that they were going to be the sacrifice. I know it sounds like I’m being pretty dramatic but hear me out.

Romania qualified for the next round after finishing top of the group after their 1-1 draw with Slovakia, thanks to goals from Ondrej Duda of Slovakia and Răzvan Marin of Romania. Slovakia qualified in 3rd position. Had Slovakia won that game, it would have been they who finished top of the group and Romania would have been packing their bags and going home. Likewise, if Romania won, then Slovakia would’ve been packing their bags. Such fine margins.

Belgium tried to get up to speed versus Ukraine in order to finish top of the table, but the longer the game went on, the more they slowly began to accept that they would probably not get that elusive goal that they were looking for. In fact, it was looking more and more likely that Ukraine would score. Their closest effort came directly from a corner kick after Ruslan Malinovskyi almost caught the Belgian keeper Koen Casteels off guard at his near post. That scare seemed like the off switch for Belgium as from then on, they opted not to take unnecessary risks knowing a draw would get them through anyway.

0-0 after the final whistle meant that Belgium qualified in 2nd while Ukraine drew the short straw and had to pack their bags. If either team had got a goal, they’d have finished top of the group while the other was sent packing. Such fine margins.

Every team in Group E finished the group stages on 4 points. Every team had 1 win, 1 draw and 1 loss. The rank in the group was determined exclusively by goal difference from top to bottom, and in some cases where the goal difference was the same, they had to compare the number of goals scored. It’s madness.


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