Soccer-Vertonghen backs Lukaku to bounce back for Belgium


Soccer Football - Euro 2024 - Group E - Belgium v Slovakia - Frankfurt Arena, Frankfurt, Germany - June 17, 2024 Belgium's Romelu Lukaku reacts after the match REUTERS/Lee Smith

FREIBURG, Germany (Reuters) - Belgium’s most capped international Jan Vertonghen, who is hoping for return to the side this weekend, is backing long-time team mate Romelu Lukaku to excel at the European Championship despite his profligate performance on Monday.

Lukaku missed several good chances in a shock 1-0 loss to Slovakia in Frankfurt, although he did twice put the ball in the net.

The first was ruled offside and the second chalked off after a VAR check for a handball in the build-up, denying Belgium a late equaliser.

Belgium meet Romania on Saturday in Cologne in their second Group E game.

"I've a lot of confidence in Romelu, especially mentally wise and quality wise. He loves these moments when the pressure, and the focus, is on him and on Saturday I'm sure he will find the way to go," said the 37-year-old Vertonghen, who has recovered from injury.

"You can have the best finishing in training but in the games the pressure is there and the opponents put their bodies on the line, but we have all the qualities in the team to recover.

"I would be more worried if we didn't have the quality, so I'm confident we will score on Saturday."

Vertonghen has played most of his 154 caps alongside 31-year-old Lukaku, who has netted a record 85 times in 116 internationals.

"Obviously, the team is very disappointed after yesterday's result," Vertonghen told a press conference on Tuesday.

"You always want the first game at a tournament to take the pressure away a bit but now the pressure is probably even more and that's why we're disappointed. We're not disappointed in the way we played, or the chances we created or the way we defended."

Vertonghen does not think the team should try to play any differently.

"That would be a mistake in my opinion. Obviously, the easy answer is to score goals and avoid conceding any. But yeah, the mindset is key, to attack and then to win and to keep doing what we've been doing for the previous 15 matches," he said of Belgium’s unbeaten run before Monday’s loss.

(Reporting by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Ed Osmond)

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