Belgium head into Euro 2022 this summer without much expectation but the ability to potentially cause an upset if things go their way.
They have experienced players who have done it to a high level with club sides – including Lyon’s Janice Cayman and former Manchester City forward Tessa Wullaert – as well as a rising star in the making in Tine De Caigny and a solid performer in Reading’s Justine Vanhaevermaet.
However, a 3-0 defeat to hosts England in a recent warm-up friendly was perhaps telling of their level when it comes to facing the top tier nations, while they have also lost against Austria.
This is everything you need to know about Belgium at Euro 2022…
Belgium were handed a fairly favourable qualifying group without one of the established giants of European football. Their strongest competition was a similarly able Switzerland, with the decisive result a 4-0 win over the Swiss on the final matchday.
The Belgians scored freely throughout qualifying, scoring four or more against Croatia (twice), Romania, Lithuania (twice) and Switzerland. Indeed, Tine De Caigny scored 12 and Tessa Wullaert got nine – no other players in the whole qualifying group got more than five goals.
After decades of trying, Belgium only qualified for a European Championship tournament for the first time in 2017. They did beat a surprisingly poor Norway on that occasion, but two other defeats ensured they went home at the end of the group stage.
Euro 1984: Did not qualify
Euro 1987: Did not qualify
Euro 1989: Did not qualify
Euro 1991: Did not qualify
Euro 1993: Did not qualify
Euro 1995: Did not qualify
Euro 1997: Did not qualify
Euro 2001: Did not qualify
Euro 2005: Did not qualify
Euro 2009: Did not qualify
Euro 2011: Did not qualify
Euro 2015: Did not qualify
Euro 2017: Group stage
Belgium have still never been to a World Cup, although qualifying for 2023 is going reasonably well and they at least look on course for a place in the playoffs.
1991 World Cup: Did not qualify
1995 World Cup: Did not qualify
1999 World Cup: Did not qualify
2003 World Cup: Did not qualify
2007 World Cup: Did not qualify
2011 World Cup: Did not qualify
2015 World Cup: Did not qualify
2019 World Cup: Did not qualify
Tine De Caigny has come into her own since the start of the Euro 2022 qualification process. Her 12 goals in qualifying for this tournament was the clear leading mark among all players, outsccoring the likes of Jenni Hermoso, Caroline Graham Hansen (both 10), Vivianne Miedema (9) and Pernille Harder (8). She is also smashing World Cup qualifying, with 10 more goals in just eight games.
At 25, De Caigny is at a good age coming into this tournament with enough experience behind her, having been just 20 when she was selected at Euro 2017. Her club career has also taken a step up over the last 12 months with a move to German football last summer with Hoffenheim, which has meant playing in the Champions League as well.
An emerging talent to watch is midfielder Marie Minnaert, who has recently turned 23 and is already a relatively established presence in this squad. She has moved to domestic giants Anderlecht this year, which promises to be the next step up in her career.
Belgium coach Ives Serneels is 11 years into the job, having been appointed way back in 2011. His management has seen a significant improvement, with the team now better able to compete at this level and becoming a regular tournament side, having been nowhere to be seen previously.
A top flight player at club level in Belgium during his own career, Serneels moved into women’s football in 2010 when he took charge of Lierse. He had previously won a Belgian title with the club as a player and was initially coach of the men’s youth side.
Belgium won 19-0 in a World Cup qualifier against Armenia in November. They averaged a goal every five minutes over the course of the match.
Tessa Wullaert scored five times, while Tine De Caigny and defender Amder Tysiak both got hat-tricks. Overall, Wullaert had a direct hand in eight of the 19 goals because of a hat-trick of assists.
The winning margin fell just shy of a world record for women’s international football, with a handful of 21-0 wins previously recorded for Japan, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. England also won 20-0 against Latvia in a World Cup qualifier a few days after Belgium’s monstrous victory.
Belgium vs Iceland
Date & time: Sunday 10 July, 17:00 (BST)
Venue: Academy Stadium
How to watch on TV: BBC Two (UK)
France vs Belgium
Date & time: Thursday 14 July, 20:00 (BST)
Venue: New York Stadium
How to watch on TV: BBC One (UK)
Italy vs Belgium
Date & time: Monday 18 July, 20:00 (BST)
Venue: Academy Stadium
How to watch on TV: BBC iPlayer (UK)
Belgium’s chances of reaching the knockout stages will hinge on beating Iceland and getting a result against one other team. If they can do that, second place would be their best bet, which would mean a quarter-final tie against the winner of Group D – most likely Sweden.
Should they somehow get further than that and reach the semis, England or Spain are the most likely opposition on that side of the knockout bracket.
The other side of the knockout bracket – should Belgium win Group D – would more likely mean quarter-final and semi-final ties against Netherlands and either Germany or Norway respectively.
Goalkeepers: Nicky Evrard (Gent), Diede Lemey (Sassuolo), Lisa Lichtfus (Dijon).
Defenders: Defenders: Davina Philtjens (Sassuolo), Amber Tysiak (OH Leuven), Laura De Neve (Anderlecht), Sari Kees (OH Leuven), Laura Deloose (Anderlecht), Jody Vangheluwe (Club YLA), Charlotte Tison (Anderlecht).
Midfielders: Justine Vanhaevermaet (Reading), Marie Minnaert (Club YLA), Julie Biesmans (PSV Eindhoven), Feli Delacauw (Gent), Kassandra Missipo (Basel).
Forwards: Forwards: Ella Van Kerkhoven (Anderlecht), Sarah Wijnants (Anderlecht), Tine De Caigny (Hoffenheim), Tessa Wullaert (Fortuna Sittard), Janice Cayman (Lyon), Hannah Eurlings (OH Leuven), Davinia Vanmechelen (Standard), Elena Dhont (Twente).
Belgium, for all their free scoring in qualifying games for both Euro 2022 and the 2023 World Cup, are likely to struggle against higher calibre opponents in France and Italy. They will have to finish above at least one of them to reach the knockout stages and that doesn’t seem likely.