Belgium reached the quarter-finals of the Women’s European Championship for the first time as Tine De Caigny’s second-half strike secured a 1-0 victory over Italy in their final group match of Euro 2022.
A sluggish start under the blazing heat at Manchester City’s Academy Stadium saw few real chances for either opponent in the early exchanges of the must-win match for both sides.
Italy enjoyed bright spells throughout and controlled momentum after the restart but could not make the most of their second-half opportunities, while Tessa Wullaert nearly doubled her side’s advantage during the seven minutes of stoppage time.
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With both teams keeping a steady eye on proceedings elsewhere, Belgium had the first early chance when Hannah Eurlings’ shot on six minutes cruised inches over the woodwork.
Elena Dhont was next with a near-miss as she latched onto a pass from captain Wullaert but could not put enough power on the ball, her effort easily caught by Italian keeper Laura Giuliani.
Belgium enjoyed nearly 60 percent of possession through the first 30 minutes but were frustrated by a formidable Italian defence as both sides looked to find a breakthrough.
Italy looked the livelier following a 28th-minute drinks break, Lucia Di Guglielmo connecting with a Barbara Bonansea cross but unable to direct her nodded effort into the Belgian net.
De Caigny finally broke the deadlock four minutes after the interval when the ball landed at her feet after a series of scrambled touches and she sent a composed strike into the bottom-right corner.
The Italians nearly responded minutes later when Cristiana Girelli pounced on a loose ball on the edge of the area only to watch her curled attempt bounce off the underside of the crossbar.
Substitute Valentina Giacinti went closest to levelling but watched as her late strike – and Italy’s tournament hopes – were thwarted by a Belgian defender.