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Vanhaevermaet counts cost of Belgium errors

Justine Vanhaevermaet was left ruing the "silly mistakes that killed us" after Belgium were eliminated but is already setting sights on her next target: Saturday's physiotherapy exams.

Belgium's Justine Vanhaevermaet talks to UEFA.com
Belgium's Justine Vanhaevermaet talks to UEFA.com ©Sportsfile

Frustration was the overriding emotion for Justine Vanhaevermaet as she digested a 3-1 defeat by Russia that brought a premature end to Belgium's UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship. "We played well in two matches, but silly mistakes killed us," she said.

On Thursday Belgium were undone by two costly defensive errors after establishing a foothold when Vanhaevermaet cancelled out Anna Cholovyaga's first-half goal. Having demonstrated an attacking philosophy of free-flowing football, it was a bitter sense of what might have been that dominated the Belgium captain's thoughts at full time.

"We conceded two stupid goals again and it cost us dear," Vanhaevermaet told UEFA.com. "It was a case of making costly individual mistakes so what can you say? That's why we lost. I am so sad because it's my last year with the Under-19s and my last chance to go to the [FIFA U-20 Women's] World Cup with them. Hopefully I'll do it with the senior team but we'll have to wait and see."

Along with Tessa Wullaert, the Belgium captain figured prominently in midfield, and not just due to her 1.90m frame. Acting as a shield in front of the back four, Vanhaevermaet helped switch defence to attack, impressing with her range of passing and, of course, her goal. "Tessa played a great ball through to me and as I was waiting for it to reach me I spotted a gap in the far corner. I just thought 'head it'. I couldn't believe it when it went in though.

"It was an incredible feeling as it got us right back in the game and I thought we could go on and win from there. In the end, though, it just adds to the sense of frustration. We have a great team, we pass the ball around well and we played some good football - it's a real pity."

The loss was all the more galling as the Red Devils got the better of Russia in the second qualifying round, winning 1-0 to clinch their place in Italy as best runners-up. "We beat them in April because we played better as a team," added the Sinaai Girls midfielder. "We were all desperate to reach the finals. This time we played well again and still badly wanted to win but silly mistakes killed us."

It all means Belgium's meeting with Group A winners Italy on Sunday is academic, with coach Jean-Marie Greven likely to field a number of players who have not yet played in the tournament. Whether she plays or not, Vanhaevermaet will nonetheless take the positives from only Belgium's second UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship. "We'll try and finish on a high note even if we have nothing to play for now.

"It has been a great experience: the press, the flags, the amazing organisation – I've really enjoyed it." And after the tournament? Does fame and fortune await? "Exams, I'm afraid. My first one is on 11 June but I'm not looking forward to it because I haven't done much revision. But it's what I must do if I want to be a physiotherapist – as well as a world famous footballer!"

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