Although the Belgian players failed to win against the English, they offered an excellent first period against one of the title candidates at the next World Cup. 30 minutes of high intensity which suggest great prospects for the world tournament.
After having achieved a clear round against India, in the Pro League, last weekend, in Antwerp, against India, Raoul Ehren’s protégés were going to try to continue on this positive momentum by offering 2 new quality performances against England in London. An interesting new test on the road to the World Cup which will start in 15 days, in Terrassa. Faced with the 4th nation in the world, a candidate for a podium at the next world deadline, Belgium would be able to assess its current level of form against a high quality opponent.
And it also started ideally for the Panthers who already found the opening when the meeting had only started 6 minutes ago. Alix Gerniers perfectly isolated Michelle Struijk who did not ask herself any questions to deceive Maddie Hinch. The Belgians were in the game and they prevented their opponents from developing their game. This first goal allowed them above all to measure their efforts and to favor rapid counter-attacks thanks to their numerous recoveries of balls in midfield.
The tactical management of the match was perfect during this first period. In the 20th minute, the Red Panthers got two consecutive pc but Stephanie Vanden Borre’s sending offs didn’t hit the mark. His third attempt, 60 seconds later, was perfectly on target but the English goalkeeper intervened with authority. The Belgians did not release their pressure on the opposing team and showed themselves to be the most inspired in the construction. The English obtained a 2nd penalty but this one gave nothing.
A slack after the break
The second period started with a new English penalty but the Belgians quickly found their marks and carried the danger with 2 consecutive attempts but Maddie Hinch was perfectly on her feet to repel the danger. The start of this third quarter of an hour was a little less exciting even if the local team remained dangerous as on this try by Elena Rayer stopped with talent by Elena Sotgiu. Finally, in the 42nd minute, Tessa Howard deservedly equalized with a powerful cross shot. A goal that we feel coming since the English seemed, finally, to have found more bite and conviction in their game since the break.
The pressure was growing on the Belgian camp at the end of the game. And in the 51st minute, the English took the lead in the duel on a penalty converted into force by Grace Balsdon (2-1). The Panthers were struggling at the end of the game against an opponent who pressed higher and who was much more aggressive in the duels. They did not create the slightest real possibility during the last 15 minutes.
“We must recognize that we did not evolve to our true level in the second half,” regretted captain Barbara Nelen when joining the locker room. “And the English found their marks after the break. We were no longer connected to each other and it was starting to get complicated. They were more aggressive while on our side, we had a slack. But that’s pretty normal at this stage of preparation. Before that, we had offered 30 minutes of high quality. It is clearly this type of meeting that helps us grow to build the future. But we will be ready to last 60 minutes at this rate during our World Cup matches in 15 days. We work for and the efforts will pay off.
No 7th victory, therefore for the Belgians during their first London outing, but many reasons for satisfaction concerning the first period. 30 minutes to be confirmed, therefore, this Sunday (2:00 p.m.) during the second duel on the program for this weekend. But Raoul Ehren repeated it on Wednesday, when announcing his selection for the World Cup, it is the process and not the result that remains the most important during this last straight line towards the world tournament.