The aftermath of a historic European Championship with a first quarterfinal in the history of the Red Flames also made itself felt in Leuven a month and a half later. For the first time in their history, the Red Flames (FIFA 19) played in a sold-out King Power at den Dreef stadium. No fewer than 8,953 fans fired on the Belgians. A record. For a match of our national women’s team and for a football match tout court in Leuven.
The swirling Dreef inspired the Flames to a strong first half against top country Norway (FIFA 13). They had to, because the Belgians had to win by at least four goals if they wanted to beat leader Norway in Group F and thus obtain a direct ticket to the World Cup. No mean feat, even though the Norwegians have had less of a European Championship and a coach change. In the first leg during this World Cup qualifier, the Belgians still lost 4-0 in Norway.
Wullaert as 10
This time the Belgians came out a lot better. They dominated in the first half and played without complexity. They created enough chances to open the score, but that turned out to be oh so difficult. The visor was out of focus. However, Tessa Wullaert – in the absence of the injured Tine De Caigny (ankle) – took her place as number ten and launched an attack more than once. A rehearsed free kick came through Wullaert to Philtjens, who crossed well to Eurlings. Her shot, however, lacked conviction.
Moments later, Minnaert Wullaert sent in deep with a perfect long ball, but the captain just missed the target. Elena Dhont also had several chances, but her shots were just not precise enough. On the stroke of half-time, Minnaert got a huge chance after a smart pass from Dhont. The Anderlecht attacker deviated the ball, but her attempt was saved by the Norwegian goalkeeper. Vanhaevermaet’s rebound also went wide. Of course you don’t score four times against the Norwegians
In the second half, a time-honored football law became a reality and the inefficient Flames got the lid on the nose. The Norwegians had come out of the dressing room better anyway and when Sari Kees gave a pass to an inattentive Minnaert, the calf had drowned. Minnaert was sleeping and let Hansen catch herself in the back. With a high distance shot she beat goalkeeper Nicky Evrard. 0-1 for the Norwegians. Pretty much their only chance in the match and hit straight away.
There went all hopes of the Belgians, who can learn something from the efficient Norwegians. Turning the game around proved impossible. Partly because national coach Ives Serneels did not have a lot of substitution options in the front. With Janice Cayman missing due to a thigh strain, the wash was fairly thin.
Ella Van Kerkhoven, who usually doesn’t need much to score, was allowed to try again and had to provide more punch and header strength in the front. After all, the Flames’ many wing crosses all missed their target before. But Van Kerkhoven was also unable to change the score. Eurlings and also substitute Vanmechelen tried again with a place ball, but they too were just unable to outwit the Norwegian goalkeeper. Van Kerkhoven and Janssens came the closest in the final for the loudly encouraging fans, but in the end it remained 0-1.
The Belgians can learn something
Turning the game around proved impossible. Partly because national coach Ives Serneels did not have a lot of substitution options in the front. With Janice Cayman missing due to a thigh strain, the wash was fairly thin. Like De Caigny, she will not fly to Armenia.
Ella Van Kerkhoven, who usually doesn’t need much to score, was allowed to try and provide more punch. After all, the Flames’ many wing crosses all missed their target before. But Van Kerkhoven was also unable to change the score. In the end she came very close together with Janssens, but in the end it remained 0-1. “But there is no question of a scoring problem”, Minnaert was not worried. “Recently we won 19-0, remember?”
The Norwegians qualify for the World Cup for the ninth consecutive time thanks to the victory. For the Red Flames, group win has now finally started to fly, but they will have enough of a point against Armenia on Tuesday to qualify for the play-offs/barrages and therefore still have a chance at their first World Cup in their history.