Panthers coach Raoul Ehren had to decide to put down the names of his 18 players and 2 reserves for the world competition. A complex decision which is a first for this constantly evolving group since the Dutch coach took office in December 2020.
Never before in the history of the women’s national team, the announcement of a selection had generated such excitement. New proof, if any, of the evolution of this team and especially of the progress made since Raoul Ehren took office 18 months ago. The 6th nation in the world (the highest ranking ever achieved by the Panthers) relies today on an extremely qualitative core of 25 players. It was therefore not easy for the national coach to compose the core (18 + 2 reserves) who will take part in the World Cup in Terrassa and Amsterdam (July 1 to 17).
“We had to decide after the last tests carried out this weekend against India,” explained the Dutchman, presenting his selection from the Center of Excellence in Antwerp. “And it was really very difficult because the level reached by this team is higher and higher. The players are stronger than ever and there has never been so much competition within this core. Those that weren’t included were really close to the others, but I tried to put together the most competitive team possible to tackle the world tournament. »
Lucie Breyne convinced
A selection that still offers one or the other surprise even if the Red Panthers will revolve around a robust and experienced framework (Stephanie Vanden Borre, Judith Vandermeren, Barbara Nelen and Alix Gerniers) relying on a solid and intractable defense that has become one of their trademarks. A group in which we find Lucie Breyne whose constant progress, skills on pc and a positive influence in the group have definitively convinced Raoul Ehren.
The group stage will be a good barometer “It’s true that these last few days have not been easy to manage”, continued Alix Gerniers (227 caps), one of the 3 captains. “But I don’t think it really had an influence on the pitch in our 6 Pro League games. But it is obvious that the selection will allow to install a certain serenity in the core. The arrival of the new generation led by Ambre Ballenghien, Justine Rasir or Charlotte Englebert generated good momentum. Their hatching clearly pulled the level of the whole core up. »
Aim for quarters, and then…
The arrival of Raoul Ehren has also changed mentalities and the way of presenting ambitions. “Before talking about a podium or a medal, we first want to achieve the best result ever achieved by this team in the World Cup. The first step will be to first qualify for the quarter-finals. And, with one more victory, you already end up in the last four. But before dreaming, I first want to see what we are capable of during the group stage. These 3 meetings will constitute an excellent barometer. But I want to see energy, speed and aggression on the pitch. »
Before that, Belgium travel to London this weekend to take on England and then finish the Pro League against the United States in Den Bosch. Four new life-size tests to fine-tune the details and gain momentum before the start, on July 3, against South Africa before facing Australia and Japan.
Squad : Aisling D’Hooghe, Elena Sotgiu ; Ambre Ballenghien, Helene Brasseur, Lucie Breyne, France De Mot, Charlotte Englebert, Alix Gerniers, Lien Hillewaert, Pauline Leclef, Barbara Nelen, Emma Puvrez, Justine Rasir, Michelle Struijk, Alexia ‘t Serstevens, Stephanie Vanden Borre, Judith Vandermeiren et Louise Versavel.
Reserves: Tiphaine Duquesne and Abi Raye.