Belgium have reached the quarterfinals of the Women’s European Championship for the first time after Tine De Caigny’s goal in the second half secured the victory against Italy at Manchester City’s Academy Stadium.
Both teams kept a concentrated eye on the proceedings in Rotherham as Iceland played France, but it was Belgium who carved the first few chances.
Chances for Hannah Eurllings and Elena Dhont were not enough to open the scoring, with Italian keeper Laura Giuliani able to stop the Belgians from scoring.
Belgium looked the most likely to score first as the statistics showed. Their ball retention was stronger than the Italians, but their back line was formidable as Belgium couldn’t find the breakthrough, they knew they needed.
The deadlock was finally broken just four minutes into the second half proceedings. De Caigny was able to find the back of the net after she sent a struck a composed finish into the bottom corner to open the scoring.
That goal appeared to wake Italy up as Cristina Girelli came close when her curled effort could only find the crossbar.
Chances would dry up towards the end of the game as Belgium rode their way to the final whistle and qualified for the knockout stages for the first time ever.
Speaking to reporters after, Belgian captain Tessa Wullaert said "This is great for women's football. Everyone must remember that most of us are semi-professionals. Imagine what we could do if we were all professionals! I hope this sends a clear message to Belgium and to women's football there! And I hope that all the girls who watched us now also know that nothing is impossible."
Belgium will play Sweden this Friday as their group winners France take on the Netherlands. The group stage comes to an end, but the tournament is only just beginning.