In tournament play like Euro 2024, bigger teams are bound to struggle in select games, and Slovakia against Belgium proved that. Belgium, which sits third in the FIFA World Rankings, fell to Slovakia, one of the lowest-ranked teams in the tournament. A one-goal victory for Slovakia ensured it started play in Group E of Euro 2024 with one of the biggest shock results in the tournament’s history.

This was not an instance of a game that Belgium outwardly dominated. Yes, the Belgians had more possession and shots, but the disparity between the two sides was not overwhelming. As is often the case in these types of games, one mistake can be the difference. One error was enough for Slovakia to score. Then, the Slovaks protected their lead brilliantly.

Sloppy play at the back from Belgium started with a misplayed pass from Jeremy Doku. Slovakia set up Róbert Boženík with a close-range shot that Belgium goalkeeper Koen Casteels did well to parry away. Unfortunately for him, that save fell straight to Ivan Schranz, who guided the ball past a desperate Casteels. Even though this goal came seven minutes into the contest, it was against the run of play. Belgium had two great chances early on that it failed to cash in on.

Later in the first half, Slovakia had a terrific opportunity to double its advantage. An outstretched Belgium defense was exposed down the right wing, and Lukáš Haraslín took a volley on first time from 17 yards away. Casteels made a sensational stop to keep it a one-goal game.

VAR aids Slovakia twice in win over Belgium

Belgium would not help its goalkeeper with a goal on Monday, though. On two occasions, Belgium had the ball in the Slovakia net. Ten minutes after the restart, Romelu Lukaku thought he scored from close range, but VAR deemed him to be a shoulder offside on a cross.

In the 86th minute, there looked to be no doubt of a Belgium equalizer. Luis Openda made a deep run behind the Slovakia defense. He eventually squared a ball across to Lukaku, whose first-time attempt flew into the top corner of the Slovakia net. Upon VAR review, though, cameras captured the slightest flick off Openda’s right arm as he won possession behind the Slovakia defense. VAR chalked the goal off, and Slovakia fans celebrated as if they scored another goal.

Martin Dubravka made several more saves in the closing minutes of the game to protect Slovakia’s lead and ensure an invaluable three points.

The biggest upset in Euros history

Based on the difference in their rankings from FIFA, this is the biggest upset in the history of the European Championship. It may not be the biggest story in the history of the competition with nations like Denmark or Greece winning the tournament unexpectedly. However, it is the biggest result in Slovakia’s history as an independent nation.

At Euro 2020, Slovakia won its first game against Poland, yet it failed to reach the knockout stage. With four third-place teams reaching the knockout stage, Slovakia is likely one point away from reaching the last 16. Its next game against Ukraine is a massive one.

For Belgium, the next game is arguably more important. Belgium has experienced considerable turmoil within its camp over the years, and crashing out of a fairly straightforward group by some standards would be more than a disaster. Belgium faces Romania, which pulled off a shock result of its own on Monday. It may be must-win territory if Belgium wants to finish at the top of its group to earn a simpler draw.