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Mbappe breaks nose as France win Euro 2024 opener, Slovakia stun Belgium


Kylian Mbappe came off late on with a broken nose as France edged Austria 1-0 in their opening game at Euro 2024 on Monday, after Slovakia inflicted a surprise 1-0 defeat on Belgium and Romania beat Ukraine.

France, the runners-up at the 2022 World Cup, are one of the standout contenders for European Championship glory in Germany, but they did not entirely convince against a hard-running Austria side and needed a Maximilian Woeber own goal to claim the victory.

Defender Woeber diverted Mbappe’s cutback into his own net seven minutes before half-time in Duesseldorf to decide the Group D game and leave France level on three points at the top of the section with the Netherlands.

Mbappe may have made the goal, but it was otherwise a difficult night for the new Real Madrid signing.

He was denied twice by Austrian goalkeeper Patrick Pentz in the first half and failed to hit the target from a glorious chance when sent clean through 10 minutes after the restart.

Mbappe then had to come off in the 90th minute after being left with a bloodied nose in an accidental collision with Austrian defender Kevin Danso.

A source close to the France captain confirmed to AFP shortly after the game that his nose was broken.

The French team will hope that does not prevent him playing in Friday’s second group match in Leipzig against the Netherlands, who beat Poland 2-1 in their first outing on Sunday.

“He is not good. He is in a bad way. His nose is a mess, that is for sure. That is the black mark on the evening for us,” France coach Didier Deschamps told reporters.

“It is a good start to the competition, a good basis from which to build,” midfielder N’Golo Kante told broadcaster beIN Sport of the result.

“We need to keep this up, be more clinical and tougher, but it is a good start.”

Austria, who play Poland next, were left to rue a big chance missed by Christoph Baumgartner when the game was still goalless.

“I think Didier Deschamps was really happy when the final whistle came which shows how well my team played,” said Austria coach Ralf Rangnick.

– Lukaku misery –

Belgium may no longer rank among the leading contenders but they were not expected to start with a defeat against Slovakia in Frankfurt, where Ivan Schranz of Slavia Prague scored the only goal.

Schranz struck in the seventh minute, firing home the rebound after Belgian goalkeeper Koen Casteels had saved from Juraj Kucka.

It was an especially frustrating day for Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku, who missed a host of chances and had a late equaliser controversially disallowed by VAR.

He had already had one effort ruled out for a marginal offside call before he swept home a Lois Openda cutback in the 86th minute.

This time, however, the goal was disallowed because the ball had brushed Openda’s hand at the beginning of the move.

Belgium’s first defeat since the 2022 World Cup puts Domenico Tedesco’s team under pressure going into their second Group E match against Romania on Saturday.

– Romania sink Ukraine –

Romania won at a major international tournament for the first time in 24 years as they beat Ukraine 3-0 with the help of two errors from goalkeeper Andriy Lunin.

Captain Nicolae Stanciu’s magnificent long-range strike — following a misplaced Lunin clearance — gave Romania, backed by the vast majority of the Munich crowd, a first-half lead.

Razvan Marin’s shot from distance then skipped under Lunin as Romania turned the screw with two more goals before the hour, Denis Dragus tapping home the third.

“This shirt means everything to me and to score at the Euros, you can’t do more than that. To also win in the manner we did, that’s just incredible,” said Stanciu.

Romania’s last and only previous win at the tournament came when they reached the quarter-finals of Euro 2000.

It was a disastrous start to the campaign for Ukraine, who must quickly regroup with games to follow against Slovakia and Belgium.

“Unfortunately nobody expected this result,” said Ukraine coach Serhiy Rebrov. “We didn’t do good enough.”

“We all have emotions. Everybody is unhappy,” added Rebrov, whose players emerged onto the pitch with Ukrainian flags draped over their shoulders in the country’s first game at a major tournament since the Russian invasion in February 2022.

(Soruce: AFP)

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