This article is part of the Guardian’s Women’s Euro 2022 Experts’ Network, a cooperation between some of the best media organisations from the 16 countries who have qualified. theguardian.com is running previews from two countries each day in the run-up to the tournament kicking off on 6 July.
To reach these finals Belgium had to win a group including Switzerland, the country that denied them a first World Cup appearance in 2019 by winning a playoff on away goals.
Against the other teams in Group H – Lithuania, Croatia, and Romania – Belgium scored lots of goals, Tine De Caigny with 12 being the top scorer in qualifying overall, while Tessa Wullaert also scored nine.
It was always going to be about the two games against the Swiss, and in Thun in September 2020 it all went wrong as Belgium lost 2-1. The last group game was against Switzerland at home and Belgium had to win in Leuven. De Caigny scored twice before half-time, as a rampant Belgian side won 4-0 to top the group for the first time in history and reach their second Euro finals.
Since then they were well-beaten by the Netherlands and Germany in friendlies but did notably win the eight-team Pinatar Cup tournament in Spain in February without the injured Wullaert. Diede Lemey in goal was their hero as Belgium prevailed in both the semi-final and final on penalties following goalless draws with Wales and Russia respectively.
What is clear is that Belgium are a goalscoring side – after racking up 37 en route to these finals, they have so far scored 49 from eight games in the 2023 World Cup qualifiers and are on track to book an autumn playoff spot, with the prolific Wullaert scoring 15 of them.
However last October’s 4-0 defeat in Norway in those qualifiers was a big blow. The coach, Ives Serneels, said: “We gave it our everything against a team with 100% professional players. That’s where we need to make progression.” A next step in Belgium is that the federation tries to steer its clubs to at least semi-professional status.