Belgium may have got off to a bit of a shakey start in their first match of the tournament against Denmark, but they certainly brought a lively bunch of fans with them for the short trip to The Netherlands. The Red Flames are currently the subject of a book being written by Willem de Bock who is a veteran sports journalist with almost 30 years experience under his belt. He’s writing an in depth study from a fly on the wall perspective. The book covers the development of the team over the last decade which lead to their qualification for, and first victory in a major tournament. The stats are that from 21,000 women playing football in 2011, this number has grown to 30,000. Again this is something that has been consciously worked on in Belgium with investment and The Red Flames captain Aline Zeler running sessions at schools to recruit young players.
This clearly paid off as Belgium went on to cause an upset with their 2-0 victory over Norway in their second group game (Norway are one of only 3 teams to win the title too, taking it twice when Germany must have been having an off-day!).
Some of their tactics have been a little more leftfield though. Before the 2014 World Cup the Belgian FA asked female fans of The Red Devils to send in photos of themselves in order to be invited to the Women’s “Kop” which was a stand reserved for the ‘most ardent’ fans. The bargaining chip on the table was that if female fans obliged, they’d send some players to the Women’s training to raise the profile of the game. Perhaps this was where Axelle Despiegelaere was first spotted!