EuroHockey Championship – Women Pool B
Belgium 1 England 1
A second successive disappointing performance saw England fail to reach the semi-finals, for the first time in European Championship history, after being held to a 1-1 draw against a continually improving Belgium team in Amsteelveen.
Instead, England will have to fight for fifth place and qualification for the World Cup against Ireland, Italy and Scotland. England will carry forward their 4-0 win over Italy and Ireland will go into the Pool C schedule with their 1-0 victory under their belts.
Belgium started the tournament ranked 12th in the world and moved up to 11th when the latest world rankings were issued earlier this week. England needed to win to book their place in the last four, but the only highlight of the first quarter was Ambre Ballenghen’s shot from the right of the circle which went narrowly past the left post.
Lily Owsley went on one of England’s few attacks, running down the right wing and also colliding with Stephanie Vanden Borre, but considering England needed the win to progress, they let Belgium have far too much possession and didn’t seem to have enough attacking intent.
Only a successful video review in the 19th minute deprived Belgium of a penalty corner opportunity, a favour which Belgium returned in the 33rd minute to deny England their first set-piece of the match.
Belgium looked particularly dangerous in the third quarter, Judith Vandermeiren running into the circle but not able to take advantage; Barbara Nelen’s cross from the left was just beyond Louise Versavel and Abi Raye only prevented from giving Belgium the lead as England goalkeeper, Maddie Hinch used all her experience to hold Raye up before the England defence could clear.
Two minutes into the first quarter, England finally won the first penalty corner of the match but Giselle Ansley’s dragflick was saved by Elodie Picard, who played in the Belgian goal in the second and fourth quarters; Elena Sotgiu between the posts in quarters one and three.
With ten minutes to play, Owsley had another close encounter with a Belgian player, Charlotte Englebert this time the unfortunate opponent.
Hinch had to kick the ball away with eight minutes remaining and with four minutes and fifty-five seconds left, Head Coach Mark Hager made the tactical decision to replace Hinch with an eleventh outfield player.
Less than a minute later, Owsley made it a hat-trick of physical challenges as France de Mot came off worse after being hit by the ball.
Vandermeiren was banished to the sin-bin in the 56th minute and she could only watch as England won their second penalty corner of the game in the 58th minute, Ansley slipping the ball past Picard to put England ahead and threaten to cause Belgian heartbreak.
After 147 seconds rest, Hinch returned to the England goal, but within a minute of her return, the game took another dramatic twist as Belgium won their first penalty corner after England lost their video referral challenging the decision.
Izzy Petter bravely got in the way of the first drag-flick to force a second penalty corner. Belgium were not to be denied and with just 86 seconds left, Vanden Borre somehow managed to slide the ball under Hinch to earn the Belgians a deserved equaliser.
Hinch immediately returned to the bench as England tried to secure a miraculous second goal, but Belgium successfully ran out the clock to reach the semi-finals and a meeting with the Netherlands. Germany will play Spain in the other semi-final after Spain drew 1-1 with Ireland and Germany inflicted Italy’ third successive 4-0 defeat.
England will play Ireland at 1030 on 11 June and Scotland at 1745 on 12 June.
Scorer: Stephanie Vanden Borre 59-PC
Starters: Abi Raye, Charlotte Englebert, Emma Puvrez, Alix Gerniers, Michelle Struijk (Capt.), Barbara Nelen, Stephanie Vanden Borre, Elena Sotgiu (GK), Lien Hillewaert, Ambre Bellenghien, Hélène Brasseur.
Subs: Louise Versavel (3 mins), Justine Rasir (4), Judith Vandermeiren (4), Pauline Leclef (4), France De Mot (4), Tiphaine Duquesne (6), Elodie Picard (16).
Cards: Green: Michelle Struijk (19 mins), Judith Vandermeiren (56 mins).
Scorer: Giselle Ansley 58-PC
Starters: Maddie Hinch (GK), Laura Unsworth, Sarah Evans, Anna Toman, Susannah Townsend, Ellie Rayer, Giselle Ansley, Hollie Pearne-Webb (Capt.), Lily Owsley, Grace Balsdon, Izzy Petter.
Subs: Lizzie Neal (4 mins), Jo Hunter (4), Catherine Ledesma (4), Fiona Crackles (4), Esme Burge (6), Erica Sanders (6).
Sub not used: Sabbie Heesh.
Umpires: Sarah Wilson (SCO) and Michelle Meister (GER).
Report: Colin Pike