Belgium squad for Women’s Euro 2022: player profiles - Wullaert, Evrard...
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.
As part of the Guardian’s Women’s Euro 2022 Experts’ Network, a collaboration between media outlets from 16 countries, AS is offering in-depth profiles of the players in all 16 squads at the tournament, which runs from 6 to 31 July. This lowdown on the Belgium squad is written by Het Laatste Nieuws’ Dirk Deferme.
Date of birth: 26 May 1995
The No 1 goalkeeper in the squad gets plenty of practice most match weekends as her team, Gent, finished in the bottom half of Belgium’s Super League. Has travelled around Europe and gained invaluable experiences with Twente in the Netherlands and Huelva in Spain. Things did not go to plan in the Primera División – at one point she ended up sleeping on a mattress on the floor – and Evrard was soon back in Belgium. A cool and experienced stopper who is a true leader and is good with her feet, she may be ready for a new adventure abroad after these Euros.
Date of birth: 7 October 1996
Looked on course to be her country’s No 1 at Euro 2017, at the age of 20, but the coach, Ives Serneels, put his faith in Justien Odeurs. It must have been a shock for Lemey but she knuckled down and worked her way back up again. A move to Italy reinvigorated her, with spells at Verona, Atalanta and now Sassuolo. Won the award for the league’s best goalkeeper last season and hopes to one day play in the Champions League. Studied to become a nursery teacher and started playing football because of her older brother. “I wanted to do what he did,” she said. “If he had played volleyball I probably would have too.”
Date of birth: 29 December 1999
Young and promising, Lichtfus moved to France and Dijon in 2021 to revive a career that was threatening to go a bit stale, having been at Standard for 11 years, since she was 10. Has come through the national youth team set-up but does not have, at the time of writing, a single cap for the senior team despite being selected for the squad for the first time in 2017. Lichtfus is the only Red Flame at the Euro from Wallonia, the French-speaking part of Belgium.
Laura De Neve
Date of birth: 9 October 1994
One of the inseparable Lauras in the squad, the other being Laura Deloose, who also plays for Anderlecht. They seem to spend most of their time together. De Neve has had a long and distinguished career and could have played abroad but opted to stay in Belgium. “I dare you to find someone who says something negative about her,” said Patrick Wachel, the coach who moved her back to defence in 2016. De Neve has a splendid left foot for set pieces and is the leader in defence for club and country. Works in healthcare as a driver and has a degree as a general remedial educationalist.
Date of birth: 19 June 1993
The second of the two inseparable Lauras, alongside De Neve, Deloose has never played at club level outside Belgium. She’s the funny one, for club and country. Plays on the right and loves to go forward. Gets kicked about a lot, but never seems to retaliate. Hugely popular, she loves children, dogs and football. One of the Anderlecht players who won the title five years in a row, she works part-time in a sports shop.
Date of birth: 17 February 2001
Club: OH Leuven
Her surname is a popular boy’s name in the Netherlands, and everyone calls her that on the pitch. Had such a good season in 2021-22 that we may see a few more Belgian girls called Kees soon. Was transferred from Genk to OH Leuven together with Amber Tysiak. An intelligent player, Kees is good at organising herself and those around her. Despite being a defender she also chips in with goals, offering a threat in the opposing penalty area. Off the pitch she loves to go hiking and riding her bike. Still at university, she is studying to become a physiotherapist.
Date of birth: 26 February 1989
Used to be a forward and still runs like one, despite playing in defence. Some liken her to Jordi Alba but perhaps a left-footed Dani Alves is more appropriate. After eight years at Standard Liège, she has had spells at Ajax, Fiorentina and Sassuolo. She’s a member of the small club of players at the Belgian national team with more than 100 caps. Likes to ride on her mountain bike and read books about mental health. Her nickname is Daf-ke, like the small 1970s Dutch car that never ran out of petrol. Will be sorely missed when she eventually hangs up her boots.
Date of birth: 21 April 1998
Nicknamed Chacha, Tison is a bit of an ambassador for Brussels in the team and her French is as good as her Flemish. She is a natural No 6 who can score goals but has to fill in at centre-back at times. Is studying for a master’s in economics at Vrije Universiteit Brussel and is a fan of Brussels popstar Angèle. How did she feel when she got her first cap? “Proud. Pleased. Could not believe it. Lots of stress.”
Date of birth: 26 January 2000
Club: OH Leuven
They call her Ambi, riffing on both Bambi and Ambition with a capital A. One of the most promising players in Belgian football, she had injury problems in the recent season but should be fully fit for the Euros. Very skilful and, considering she is a defender, a bit of a daredevil going forward. Off the pitch she is a popular teacher at her school but may go professional this summer and give up her day job. One more thing: she loves to cook, with casseroles a speciality.
Date of birth: 15 July 1997
Club: Club YLA
The recent friendly against England was her first match in seven months and it is something of a miracle that she is playing at all. Vangheluwe was told last year she had at best a very small chance of continuing her career because of a knee problem. She weighed up those odds, grasped the opportunity to plough on and persists as a strong defender, one of few right-back options for the Red Flames.
Date of birth: 4 May 1994
Came through the set-up at Genk, which on the men’s side yielded Kevin De Bruyne, Thibaut Courtois, Divock Origi, Yannick Carrasco and Dennis Praet to name a few. Started her senior career at Standard Liège, where she used to drive to training and matches together with Tessa Wullaert. Picked up seven league titles in a row before moving to the Netherlands and PSV, where she won the league in 2020 and the cup in 2021. A feisty player who will pick up a few yellow cards. She is an ambassador for the charity Plan International, likes to cycle and has a master’s degree in educational sciences.
Date of birth: 4 April 2002
Club: Fortuna Sittard
Studies to be an industrial engineer and is the future warrior of this team. Had a difficult season with Gent with injuries and the team struggling, but did enough to convince national coach Ives Serneels that she was worth a place. Extremely hard working, she helps the team with her tackling and hunting down the ball. And she does it all with a smile because that’s in her name: Féli stands for Felicia, with joy. Or should that be feline, with claws? Joined Fortuna Sittard this summer.
Date of birth: 5 May 1999
Joining Anderlecht this summer as her career takes another step upwards after five years at Gent. Two-footed, she has a good eye for a goal. Does not normally score headers but managed one for the Red Flames against Kosovo in April – and could not stop laughing afterwards. Often plays with a smile despite being a tough character on the pitch, running around putting bone-crunching tackles in. Part of the socks-rolled-down camp.
Date of birth: 3 February 1998
Club: FC Basel
A no-nonsense No 6 who says what she thinks. Missipo battles, bites into tackles and is outspoken. She suffered a serious knee injury in May 2021 and her first game back was the friendly against England on 16 June. That return came a month after she signed for Basel. Opted to recover and train on her own after Anderlecht did not have the answer she wanted to her one question: “Where are you going with your women’s team?” She was outraged by the state of the artificial pitch on which she and her Belgium colleague Ella Van Kerkhoven sustained long-term injuries last year. Missipo missed Euro 2017 for disciplinary reasons. By the way, don’t say Kassandra. It’s Kassie.
Date of birth: 29 April 1992
Missed the 2017 Euros because of injury. Instead of playing she was a pundit that summer. No wonder she cried when Belgium qualified for the tournament in England. She is becoming more and more of a goal threat for the national team and is a smart player as well as outspoken off the pitch. She has studied to become a physiotherapist, as has her boyfriend, Thomas, who works for Belgian men’s top-flight side Club Brugge.
Date of birth: 12 October 1988
A superb player and the one in this squad who has made it properly big abroad, having been with Lyon since 2019. Won the Golden Boot for being Belgium’s best female player in 2021 (adding to the one in 2017) and has won the Champions League twice. When she grew up she always pretended she was playing as Brazil. Has the most international appearances for any woman in Belgium and when she won her record-breaking 112th cap she invited 112 girls to celebrate a day of football.
Tine De Caigny
Date of birth: 9 June 1997
They say there is more to Belgium than just the goals from Wullaert and De Caigny and maybe they have a point but these two provide about 75% of the ones the national team score. De Caigny has now developed after becoming a full-time professional in Germany, but is still one of the “Anderlecht girls”, with several of her former teammates crossing the border to watch her play Champions League football. Won the Belgian league’s Golden Boot and was the top scorer of the Euro qualifiers with 12 goals.
Date of birth: 27 March 1998
Club: FC Twente
Back from a horrible incident in which she broke a knee cap. That was in November 2020, when she was nearing her best form for her then new club, Twente, and it left almost everyone crying on the pitch. Dhont was sidelined from the first team until this April but says: “It made me stronger, mentally and physically.” An extremely fast dribbler with an excellent cross, she is popular with the fans in Belgium, who want her to start the opening Euros game against Iceland. While injured she earned a new contract and returned just in time to win a league and cup double. Has a twin sister, Eliza.
Date of birth: 1 January 2003
Club: OH Leuven
Grew up next to the zoo in Antwerp, and has something of the tiger about her play. Like a few other players, would not have been at the Euros if it had been played in 2021 but now a year later they are ready, though Eurlings will hope to offer more goals to the team. A rival for Janssens on the left, she has been playing since she was five years old. Went to football school in Leuven and then straight into OHL’s first team at the age of 16.
Ella Van Kerkhoven
Date of birth: 20 November 1993
Club: OH Leuven
Found a new lease of life when she switched from being a defender to becoming a power forward. Scored twice against England in the summer of 2018 and earned a dream move to Internazionale a year later. Suffered injuries in Italy, however, and moved back to rebuild her career, first at Gent and then Anderlecht. Has been a pundit on TV while injured. Studied criminology and teaches English and Spanish.
Date of birth: 30 August 1999
Club: Club YLA
At 17 she was the youngest member of Belgium’s Euro 2017 squad and got a half against the Netherlands. Fulfilled a childhood dream by joining Club YLA Brugge, whose men’s team she supports, and has also played for Standard Liège, Genk, PSG, Twente and PSV. Was dropped from the national squad at one point because physically she was not considered in good enough shape. Hard work was the answer and in no time she was back on track. Possesses a great shot, has scored some fantastic goals and outside football she studies at media school. She is best friends with Imke Courtois, a former international and the first full-time female pundit on Belgian TV, and they live in Landen, where Vanmechelen coaches a women’s youth team.
Date of birth: 13 October 1999
A permanent fixture for Anderlecht and one of the guaranteed picks for every Red Flames squad. An extraordinary runner that keeps on going very, very fast, as well as giving and demanding energy. With Standard and Anderlecht she won the league six out of seven seasons. She is a trained personal coach and works in that role during the day. A perfectionist. Loves walking her dog Jenko, going out with her girlfriend or just to chill at home. Is best friends with Charlotte Tison. “I need to do a special handshake with her before every match,” she says.
Date of birth: 19 March 1993
Club: Fortuna Sittard
Tessa Wullaert is the biggest star Belgium have ever had in women’s football. Fast and with good feet, the 29-year-old has outstanding career stats and is the all-time top scorer for Belgium with 65 goals in 107 appearances. In her last two seasons for Anderlecht, she scored 79 goals and assisted 57, and will join the Dutch club Fortuna Sittard next season. It is her third attempt at success overseas after spells at Manchester City and Wolfsburg earlier in her career. Wullaert won the Golden Boot in Belgium in 2016, 2018 and 2019. Away from the pitch she is also the chief executive of GRL PWR, a sports clothing franchise, and runs soccer camps for young girls which are growing the women’s game in Belgium.