The Belgians won the bronze medal at the European Championships in the Wagener Stadium on Sunday. Raoul Ehren’s team was a lot stronger than the Spanish team in the consolation final and won 3-1. It is a great achievement for Ehren with the Belgian squad as head coach.
The goal that Barbara Nelen (former Orange Black) scored just before half-time was a feast. The attacker came in strong over the back line and pushed high into the ropes via the short corner. A relief for the Belgian team, which until then had the greatest opportunities, but where the score still failed to materialize.
When Abi Raye tipped through a backhand in the third quarter and the ball flew into the Spanish goal through the bottom of the crossbar, the game was almost over. The Spaniards came back through Lucia Jimenez in the third quarter, when the Spanish striker cleverly tapped in from close by.
Ambre Ballenghien, who excelled in this tournament – who played so well that she applied for an adventure in the Dutch big league – secured the Belgian bronze a minute later. She hit with her forehand. The bronze was celebrated as gold after the final whistle.
The proof of the turnaround
‘For us, this medal is proof of the turnaround’, said veteran Judith Vandermeiren afterwards, while next to her Alex Gerniers sheds tears of joy about the result. ‘After we didn’t qualify for the Olympics, a switch went on for us. Raoul has brought a belief in the team that we can also win well against top countries. He showed us that we can make it difficult for the best countries in the world. That we don’t have to be afraid. If we had been a little more efficient it would have been 5-1 or 6-1.’
‘Normally Spain is our black beast’, says Vandermeiren with a sense of symbolism. “In important matches we sometimes choke on them. Then we crawl back. This result was a bit coming, because of the self-confidence we have gained.’
Belgium v Spain 3-1 (1-0 )
21′ 1-0 Barbara Nelen
42′ 2-0 Abi Raye
46′ 2-1 Lucia Jimenez
47′ 3-1 Ambre Ballenghien