UEFA
Women’s World Cup: Belgium 2-2 Switzerland 

UEFA Women’s World Cup: Belgium 2-2 Switzerland 

Play-off semi-final hangs on a knife-edge

soppysophs
Sophie Lawson

Pegged back by Alisha Lehmann after twice taking the lead at home, Belgium will need to tighten up their defence after being held by Switzerland in the first leg of the play-off semi final.

Push and pull

Off the mark five minutes in when Janice Cayman struck low beyond Gaëlle Thalmann, the Red Flames seemed in comfortable control of the match, Nicky Evrard tested but standing strong between the sticks.

The second half saw the bulk of the goals, the half-time introduction of Alisha Lehmann (in for Florijana Ismaili) enough to give the visitors a foot in the match. The Swiss pulled level ten minutes into the second half when the teenager toe-poked a low cross home after ghosting between the centre backs.

Having set Cayman up for the first, Tessa Wullaert was involved as the Red Flames regained the lead, the parity only lasting five minutes. Fed by the experienced winger, Laura De Neve pulled a stunning strike, thundering the ball through the box and into the left side of the net from 27-yards. Going hammer and tong for a third, the Belgians couldn’t find another way past Thalmann, the Swiss finishing the game on the front foot.

Having taken over as the preferred first choice goalkeeper from Justien Odeurs, Evrard, pulled off a string of strong saves to keep the hosts ahead until the last knockings when she was undone for a second time. Having combined well with Ramona Bachmann for the first equaliser, the duo linked-up again three minutes from time when Lehmann thundered Bachmann’s pull-back in off of the inside of the bar. 

The upshot

Despite their proximity in the rankings, the hosts were always the underdogs coming into the tie, with the bigger helping of less experienced players. Yet, again, the Red Flames have shown their ability to raise their level as necessary whilst the Swiss continue to relatively, under-perform.

With two big away goals heading into a home leg on Tuesday, the ball remains firmly in the court of La Nati, the team with actual World Cup experience in need of tightening their defence and being more clinical in front of goal.

Confirmed as the new Germany coach earlier this year, Martina Voss-Tecklenburg won’t want the second leg to be her last match in charge of Switzerland, but to earn another brace of outings. And with the talent at her disposal, questions would need to be asked if the Swiss fall short.

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Up and coming

Whilst there is a healthy dose of youth and inexperience over the two squads, it was one of the youngest on the pitch who lit it up. Only recently having earned her first cap with the seniors – before going back to represent the U19s this summer – Lehmann was the most explosive on the pitch. Brought on at half time to spark some life into the team, the young attacker did just that, needing just ten minutes to pull the visitors level before firing in a second equaliser at the death.

Still just 19-years-old, Lehmann seems to improve each and every time she takes to the pitch, raising her game with a summer move to West Ham, the young dynamo could yet go down as one of the Swiss greats should she continue her upward trajectory. 

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