Belgium earned a UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship finals debut by winning second qualifying round Group 1 on home soil.
The decisive games had been postponed because of heavy snowfall on 12 March and were finally played on 3 April. After holding Denmark 1-1 and beating the Netherlands 3-0, Belgium drew that final group match 0-0 with holders Germany – meaning it also needed an added-time Netherlands equaliser against Denmark, who would come second, to get the Red Devilettes to their maiden finals. Never before had Germany failed to qualify.
Using a 4-3-3 system, with captain Valentine Hannecart in midfield, and Lotte Aertsen and Margaux Van Ackere up front, coach Joëlle Piron has a strong team. "Reaching the finals is a huge performance given the opponents we had," she said. "We now have to start the final tournament with the ambition of reaching the final."
First qualifying round: Moldova 8-0, Bulgaria 9-0, Switzerland 1-2 (Group 1 runners-up)
Second qualifying round: Denmark 1-1, Netherlands 3-0, Germany 0-0 (Group 1 winners)
Lotte Aertsen (forward, K. Lierse SK), Valentine Hannecart (midfielder, R.Standard de Liège). Margaux Van Ackere (forward, Thor Kokerij Meldert)
Coach: Joëlle Piron
Date of birth: 6 November 1958
Playing career: FC Warsage, FC Jupille, SC Saive, Remouchamps
Coaching career: Belgium women's U15/U17/U19
Piron studied at Liège University and received a master's in physical education in 1980. The following year she was awarded the UEFA A licence and in 2010 she picked up a diploma in sports psychology from Louvain-La-Neuve University.
Piron played for various clubs in the Liege area between the ages of 14 and 27, ending with second division Remouchamps after the birth of her first child. She then took up volleyball and represented Loncin in the Belgian top flight, only retiring aged 45 while still at second-division level.
Since 2002 she has worked for the Royal Belgian Football Association (URBSFA-KBVB), not only coaching the women's U15, U17 and U19 teams, but also scouting the best girl players in the country with a view to involving them in national squads from 14 upwards.
Qualifying top scorer
Margaux Van Ackere: 5
UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship best
Fourth place: 2013
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