After a good first quarter of an hour, Belgium never managed to display the level to which they had accustomed their supporters for more than 18 months. But this defeat (1-2) against Spain will be rich in lessons 6 weeks before the World Cup.
For their return to the Pro League, in Antwerp, the Belgian players would finally be able to assess, in real conditions, the work done in recent months against the 7th nation in the world, also a candidate for a medal at the next World Cup. which will take place jointly in Spain and the Netherlands next July. And from the start of the debates, the Panthers demonstrated their good intentions in the meeting by taking the initiative. And from the 5th minute, they already found the opening on the first penalty of the match via Ambre Ballenghien. The first quarter of an hour was quite good with high pressing which paid off. The rest of the first period was a notch below even if Charlotte Englebert, very restless for her first in the heart of the offensive line, still got 2 good goal opportunities.
After the break, Belgium tried to regain control of the proceedings even if the Spaniards were more concentrated and more precise in their offensive conversions. And Elena Sotgiu had to intervene with authority to avoid the equaliser. The Red Panthers were struggling in this 3rd quarter and they could not regain the upper hand in the exchanges. There was too much technical waste and the game was much less fluid. And in the 41st minute, Charlotte Englebert finally offered herself a first clear chance but the opposing goalkeeper repelled the attempt. But two minutes later, Laura Barrios finally offered a deserved equalizer to the visitors.
Many lessons to be learned
From the start of the last quarter of an hour, the Panthers returned to the field with a clearly displayed desire to make a difference. A penalty from Ambre Ballenghien narrowly passed the goal. But the Spaniards also remained dangerous and were not ready to let the game slip away. They were also rewarded for their offensive ambitions as they scored a second goal in the 52nd minute via Georgina Oliva (1-2). The end of the game was undecided and the Belgians tried to force the division. But the last penalty from Ambre Ballenghien was again pushed back by Mélanie Garcia.
“It was a first meeting in our preparation cycle”, regretted Charlotte Englebert. “It’s frustrating to take this goal in this way when we gave him time to shoot. We have sometimes retreated too far and let our opponents and especially their key players play. This will be an important point to work on in the coming weeks. We wanted to put a lot of aggression into the duels and above all have fun on the pitch for our reunion with our supporters. We have an offensive team and we have to manage our ball recoveries even better to translate this into goal opportunities. Tomorrow, we will try to correct the situation, above all by better managing our offensive conversions. We also need to be better positioned defensively. »
This 5th defeat in 7 Pro League games will in any case offer its share of lessons. A good thing for Raoul Ehren and his staff as there are 9 games left for the Red Panthers before starting their World Cup.