Belgium secured its place in the last four of the Euro by winning a victory full of panache against Russia (9-2). But, Thursday, it is an opponent of a completely different caliber who will stand in his way to a new final.
After their somewhat sloppy performance against England early Sunday evening, the Red Lions, who were stung by critics, had to correct the situation during their last group match against Russia. But more importantly, they had to ensure their qualification for the semi-final by scoring 4 more goals than their opponents of the day to secure their place in the last four without waiting for the result of the duel between Spain and England (5 p.m. ).
And the game started ideally for Belgium, which was already opening its counter after only 33 seconds of play via Florent van Aubel. Deprived of Sebastien Dockier (left to rest for a pain in the hamstrings) but with Nicolas De Kerpel (back from injury) and Loic Van Doren in the goals, Shane McLeod’s men settled in the opposing camp and tried to bypass the wall erected in front of them. Tom Boon then hit the post before Alexander Hendrickx doubled the penalty (9th). It was then Nicolas De Kerpel who celebrated his entry into the tournament with dignity by beautifully deflecting a cross from Florent van Aubel (10th). On the 5th penalty, Alexander Hendrickx already allowed the Belgians to take their ease in this meeting when we had only played for 13 minutes (4-0).
In the second quarter, the Belgians loosened their grip a little and the Russians took the opportunity to try one or the other incursion, but Loic Van Doren was uncompromising. Offensively, it lacked a little precision in the last movement and we had to wait for the 27th minute to witness the number 5 scored by Antoine Kina with a magnificent backhand shot. But 25 seconds before the break, the 22nd nation in the world equalized on its first penalty via Artem Nadyrshin. On the throw-in, Florent van Aubel deflected a shot from Simon Gougnard to allow the Red Lions to lead 6-1 at the break.
Mentality and maturity made the difference
The second half started with a new pc for the Russians then a card for Arthur De Sloover (his 2nd in the tournament). Tom Boon sent another ball to the post but he made up for it in the 42nd minute by scoring the 7th from the penalty spot. Andrey Kuraev reduced (44th). The Red Lions were playing a little less fair but it was not easy to keep the same pace or apply the same pressure when the game is already folded and the mission is accomplished. In the 54th minute, Alexander Hendrickx offered himself a hat-trick from the penalty spot before Thomas Briels then set the final score at 9-2, 2 minutes later.
“It’s never easy to win this type of match with more than a 4-goal difference,” said Florent van Aubel when meeting the press. “There was a completely normal relaxation at the end of the game, but the mentality and maturity were very present today. There are some details that we still need to improve but that is part of the process. The game against England was not that bad. We must not believe that we are going to win all our matches by a score of 6-0. But we have done a lot of work to correct the situation. We can’t wait to play in this semi-final. This is the kind of meeting we love to play. It will be either Germany or the Netherlands. But it will certainly be necessary to beat the 2 nations to be crowned European champion on Saturday.
The next meeting will be a solid test but awaited by Shane McLeod. The New Zealander wants to see, in fact, what his proteges have in the stomach against one of the other candidates for the gold medal, in Amstelveen, then in Tokyo. The Red Lions repeated it enough after this game against Russia. There are only 2 matches left to win a new European title. And they will do absolutely everything to come back to the country with the most beautiful medals around their neck …