Euro 2024: Group E Preview

Belgium stand out in this group as being a level above the rest on paper, but will things prove to be that smooth for Domenico Tedesco’s team?

Ukraine should not be overlooked and will provide some competition, while Slovakia and Romania are very much group underdogs.

Here’s your Group E Euro 2024 preview.


Much has been made of Belgium’s failure to capitalise on their ‘golden generation’ by winning a major tournament under Roberto Martinez, and it’s true that the likes of Eden Hazard, Dries Mertens and Vincent Kompany are tough to replace, but there’s still a great deal of talent for Belgium to call upon and things are looking pretty positive with Domenico Tedesco and a more youthful squad.

Former Leipzig manager Tedesco is yet to lose a match in charge of the national team, winning 10 of his 14 games since March 2023. Having also now been handed a kind group in this tournament, there’s no reason why the Red Devils can’t build momentum and become a considerable force in this tournament.

Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois won’t feature at this tournament as he continues recovery from the ACL issue that kept him out of almost the entire 2023/24 season so he’s a notable miss, but there are plenty of young players to be excited about alongside the known quality of Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku.

Maxim De Cuyper (23) is a full back with excellent attacking quality, midfielders Arthur Vermeeren (19) and Amadou Onana (22) look set to fill the middle of the park for Belgium for years to come, winger Jeremy Doku (22) has shown remarkable dribbling ability in his debut season with Manchester City and Johan Bakayoko (21) has just played a massive role in PSV’s fantastic title winning season, contributing 14 goals and 14 assists across all competitions.

With favourable opening fixtures against Slovakia and Romania, Belgium should be in a commanding position from the off and their third round game against Ukraine would then serve as decent preparation for knockout football.

Of course, anything can happen in tournament football and a bad opening performance can throw any team off course, but Belgium have been more solid defensively than you might think looking at their squad, with 5 clean sheets in their last 6 games which should help them avoid any group upsets.

Once/if in the latter stages, central defence could be a problem considering Jan Vertonghen, Axel Witsel and Wout Faes aren’t exactly modern, athletic centre backs, but Koen Casteels is an experienced deputy for Courtois in goal and Belgium will surely adapt when necessary to avoid leaving their backline with too much ground to cover.

Manager: Domenico Tedesco

Captain: Kevin De Bruyne

Player to watch: Arthur Vermeeren

Best Euros performance: Runners-up (1980)


This will be Slovakia’s third consecutive appearances at a European Championships, and their theme of finishing third in their group at the tournament could well continue. In 2016, a win over Russia and a goalless draw with England was enough to reach reach the Round of 16 as a top-ranked 3rd placed side where they were then beaten by Germany. In 2020, a win over Poland also saw them finish 3rd, but a 0-5 defeat to Spain during that group stage ruined their goal difference and chances of progressing.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about this Slovakia side is their manager. Taking this job in 2022 was the start of Francesco Calzona’s career as a head coach, as prior to that he had only been an assistant, making his name as part of Maurizio Sarri’s coaching staff at Empoli and then Napoli.

That link to Napoli is why he took an interim role as their number 1 for the end of this 2023/24 season with Slovakia’s Euros qualification already confirmed. It didn’t go particularly well with just 3 wins in 16 games to end a difficult season for Napoli, but Calzona’s work with Slovakia has been impressive.

In 18 matches, Calzona has only lost 4 as Slovakia boss, with two of those defeats coming against Portugal. Slovakia will play 4-3-3 in this tournament and are more attacking than you might think, hammering both San Marino and Wales 4-0 in their warm-up games for this tournament.

Squad wise, Slovakia have plenty of experienced players, but few of them are considered among Europe’s elite. Stanislav Lobotka (Napoli) and Ondrej Duda (Hellas Verona) are Serie A quality midfielders, but the biggest name is centre back Milan Skriniar who after several succesful seasons with Inter joined Paris Saint-Germain for around €50 million last summer.

Newcastle number 2 Martin Dubravka (who ended up as number 1 for the second half of the season due to Nick Pope’s injury) will be in goal, while in attack, Sparta Prague winger Lukas Haraslin has been in good form for both club and country.

Slovakia are unlikely to threaten too many giants in this tournament, but considering there’s only one in their group, they have a decent chance of progressing so long as they defeat Romania. That fixture comes last in Round 3, so Calzona’s team will need to prove themselves against stronger opposition (and try and keep their goal difference respectable) first.

Manager: Francesco Calzona

Captain: Milan Škriniar

Player to watch: Dávid Hancko

Best Euros performance: Winners (1976) Competing as Czechoslovakia


If I’m being brutally honest, there’s less to get excited about here, as rather than back-to-back 4-0 wins to bring them into this tournament, Romania have had goalless draws with Bulgaria and Liechtenstein. I suppose they can take positives from the clean sheets, but those results are unlikely to terrify their Group E opponents.

So how did Romania even qualify? Well, without losing a game, actually. In 10 matches against Switzerland, Israel, Belarus, Kosovo and Andorra, Romania won 6 and drew 4 to qualify top of the group, 5 points ahead of the Swiss. Granted, those other nations aren’t the strongest on a football pitch, but Romania conceded only 5 goals in those 10 games meaning they racked up 22 points despite only scoring 16.

Manager Edward Iordanescu tends to set his team up in a defensive 4-1-4-1 with Tottenham’s Radu Dragusin joined by Andrei Burca, who plays his football in Saudi Arabia, in central defence. Goalkeeper Horatiu Moldovan is backup to Jan Oblak at Atletico Madrid and despite his name is officially Romanian.

Romania are far stronger defensively than they are in attack, and will spend most of their time in this group looking to protect their goal. When looking to break on the counter, attacking midfielder Iania Hagi’s name stands out as the son of the legendary Gheorghe, while captain Nicolae Stanciu often provides goals (relatively speaking) from midfield.

Expect Romania to be a relatively tough nut to crack, but clean sheets are still a big ask in this group and they’re unlikely to be involved in any high scoring classics.

Manager: Edward Iordănescu

Captain: Nicolae Stanciu

Player to watch: Radu Dragusin

Best Euros performance: Quarter-finals (2000)


Football is of course trivial in comparison to what Ukraine are currently going through as a nation, and the war has naturally also affected the national team who haven’t played a home fixture since 2022. The quality within this Ukrainian squad is clear, but it’s impossible for any of us to really gauge how feasible it will be for them to perform at their best at such a dark time.

This will be Ukraine’s fourth consecutive appearances at a European Championships and their most succesful campaign was last time out in 2021 where they reached the Euro 2020 quarter-finals before losing to England 0-4.

Ahead of this tournament, results have been good rather than great, but I think Ukraine will be competitive and really like the look of their squad.

In terms of highlights, Ukraine have two fantastic young goalkeepers in Andriy Lunin (Real Madrid) and Anatolii Trubin (Benfica), several Premier League defenders in Vitalii Mykolenko (Everton), Illia Zabarnyi (Bournemouth) and Oleksandr Zinchenko (Arsenal, may play in midfield) and useful wingers Viktor Tsigankov (Girona) and Mykhaylo Muydryk (Chelsea) to support LaLiga’s top goalscorer in 2023/24, Artem Dovbyk (Girona).

When you also consider the experience of midfield duo Taras Stepanenko (Shakhtar) and Ruslan Malinovsky (Genoa) along with the quality of young attacking midfielder Heorhiy Sudakov (Shakhtar) who looks set to be a really good player, Ukraine could have a very good tournament and are more than good enough to make it out of this group.

After missing out on qualification in a tough group with England and Italy (they finished level on points with the latter), Ukraine reached this tournament via the play-offs with a narrow win over Iceland. Former striker Sergiy Rebrov has been Ukraine’s manager for the past year and has been fairly flexible tactically but tends to settle on a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1.

Yet just like many of the players, Rebrov’s role has become that of an ambassador for his country as much as he is a football manager. Midfielder Stepanenko has personally stated that he and his teammates have a duty to support and protect their people rather than just being footballers, and so while this tournament will no doubt be seen by many Ukranians as a welcome distraction from the war, it’s impossible to ignore the situation and we can expect an emotional campaign.

Manager: Serhiy Rebrov

Captain: Andriy Yarmolenko

Player to watch: Artem Dovbyk

Best Euros performance: Quarter-finals (2020)

Group Fixtures:

Round 1:

  • 17/06/2024 — Romania vs Ukraine (2pm BST)
  • 17/06/2024 — Belgium vs Slovakia (5pm BST)

Round 2:

  • 21/06/2024 — Slovakia vs Ukraine (2pm)
  • 22/06/2024 — Belgium vs Romania (8pm)

Round 3:

  • 26/06/2024 — Ukraine vs Belgium (5pm BST)
  • 26/06/2024 — Slovakia vs Romania (5pm BST)

Discover more from Marking The Spot

Subscribe to get the latest posts sent to your email.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *