24 minutes: Cayman goes from Belgium in search of Dont. Italy deals with it. De Calgny then takes an ambitious effort from well outside the box that flies high over the crossbar. You don’t shoot, you don’t score, am I right?
23 minutes: “Win or lose, Italy deserves some kind of award for best costume, and maybe Finland in second place,” emails Charles Antaki. “There was nothing outright terrible, but if England break out that obscene orange strip it’s the wooden spoon.”
21 minutes: Both teams continue to look for a clear opening, but right now, they are mostly canceling each other out. The players will no doubt know that France are beating Iceland, which is good news, but it also raises the stakes. A place in the quarter-finals of Euro 2022 is in full swing. Who can produce the necessary magic moment?
16 minutes: A neat bit of interplay from Italy in midfield is wasted in the end. But Simonetti tries to get something going in midfield for Italy – she loses the ball once, but gets it back almost immediately, and launches an attack right down on Belgium.
Italy keep the ball well and switch back to the right wing, with Bergamaschi crossing deep to the far post for Bonansea to nod back into the danger area. The ball eventually falls to Giugliano, who tries a curler into the top corner from the edge of the box, but it’s high and wide.
13 minutes: Wullaert now runs down the left, putting pressure on the Italian defence. She bends a decent delivery in, but the Azzurri clear it in the middle. Belgium are now on the front foot after being pushed back for most of the first 10 minutes. Girelli, however, is leading the line for Italy, a constant threat and demanding the ball at his teammates’ feet at every opportunity.
11 minutes: Dhont makes progress down the right wing and wins a corner for Belgium. She takes it herself, but gets it wrong, and it flies harmlessly onto the roof of the net.
The pace of the game is not particularly high at the moment, which is only to be expected considering the heat.
8 minutes: Dont suddenly has a goal for Belgium after pumping a cross into the Italian area, but Giuliani deals with it easily when his opponent gets no power into the header.
6 minutes: Linari carelessly gives the ball away as he tries to play out of defense for Italy, who are out of position as a result. The ball is worked to Eurlings, who is playing in the middle of the front three. Eurlings, who is 19, curls an artistic shot that floats over the crossbar.
3 minutes: After Girelli’s early shot, Belgium had to deal with two corners. They did that admirably, but have so far failed to make a worthwhile foray into the Italian half. Bertolini, the Italian coach, will be pleased with this purposeful start.
That didn’t take long. Melvine Malard puts France ahead in the other match in Group D. Good news for these two teams: if Iceland fail to win, they know defeat will hurt them.
We are in full swing in Manchester. Immediately there is a sight of goal for Girelli, who is in plenty of space near the edge of the area. She fires a good right-footed shot at the back from 20 yards and Evrard beats it for a corner.
Will Unwin is in the position us in Manchester, and he even sent me a photo. Thank you, Will.
Italy is ready.
The teams are out on the field and it’s time for the songs. I probably don’t need to say it, but the sun is shining brightly, even though it’s mercifully getting lower in the sky and the temperature will steadily drop.
Only 10 minutes before the start, the BBC’s live coverage of Italy v Belgium has now begun. This is happening!
The aforementioned Rob Smyth live blogging Iceland v France here, if you like. I’ll keep you updated on all the goals from that one, too.
Also nabbed from the tournament’s official website – thank you, uefa.com – some thoughts ahead of this game from Belgium coach Ica Serneels:
“We can really get started in this tournament. It will be a historic day for women’s football in Belgium. And I’m going to be honest, if we don’t qualify for the next round I’ll be very disappointed.”
Defender Laura De Neve said: “We can make history if we qualify. We have grown in this competition and I hope we have confirmed that.”
A look ahead to England’s quarter-final against SpainKaren Carney writes that Sarina Wiegman’s team must be on point that the ball if they are to make the semi-finals:
Via uefa.com, some pre-match thoughts from Italy coach Milena Bertolini: “It’s not the most important night of our careers, we’ve had big nights at the World Cup, but it’s an important night. It is a decisive game.
“We’ve improved over the last five years, it’s a great path, which makes us more respected on the international stage. Belgium has many qualities. First of all, there are some experienced players. They have quality on the ball and physicality. Like any team, they have some weaknesses.”
Italy coach Milenia Bertolini has made four changes following the 1-1 draw against Iceland. Di Guglielmo comes in at left back, Giugliano on the right wing, and Girelli ahead of Bonansea in attack.
For Belgium, Hannah Eurlings, the 19-year-old player, comes into the starting line and they will play a 4-3-3 attack.
Italy (4-4-1-1): Giuliani; Boattin, Linari, Di Guglielmo, Bartoli; Giugliano, Rosucci, Simonetti, Bergamaschi; Bonanza; girls. Representatives: Schroffenegger, Gama, Galli, Sabatino, Bonfantini, Filangeri, Caruso, Giacinti, Piemonte, Cernoia, Lenzini, Durante.
Belgium (4-3-3): Edward; Vangheluwe, Kees, Philtjens, Biesmans; Cayman, Vanhaevermaet, De Caigny; Dont, Eurlings, Wullaert. Representatives: Lemey, Van Kerkhoven, Wijnants, Delacauw, Vanmechelen, Minnaert, Tison, De Neve, Deloose, Missipo, Lichtfus.
Referee: Ivana Martincic (Croatia)
The Netherlands and Sweden Both recorded tight wins in Group C last night to move into the last eight.
Here, verbatim, are the match reports for both:
As I mentioned below, Rob Smyth was shouting on The Fiver earlier, and he was kind enough to do an oven-ready breakdown of the permutations in Group D, which is below. Who will be out of the frying pan and into the fire? Or something like that.
“France are through as group winners and will play the Netherlands, the holders, in a quarter-final in New York [Stadium] Saturday. The other three teams are competing for the right to lose probably, no offense, to Sweden at Leigh Sports Village on Friday. That in turn: for all three teams, but especially for Belgium, qualifying for the quarter finals is an end in itself.
“Iceland has two points, Belgium and Italy one point. Iceland will be through if they beat France, but unlikely. If it doesn’t happen, either Belgium or Italy will win. When it really starts to swell the noggin is if – and this is hardly beyond the realms – Iceland will lose and draw the other two. In that case, a 0-0 would see Iceland through (don’t ask us to explain, this is hard enough as it is) and a 2-2 or higher draw would see Belgium through.
“If it ends 1-1, Belgium and Iceland would be split on total goal difference, then a goal would be scored, then a sudden death spelling bee where players on each side would have to spell the word “canicular”. Confused? amazing Now we just need the three digits on the back of the card.”
The most important thing to remember as Group D concludes tonight is that France, with six points out of a possible six, have already qualified for the quarter-finals. Beyond that there is every chance, with fourth-placed Italy able to progress, unless they beat Belgium and Iceland Les Bleus this afternoon. Belgium knows exactly the same thing: win tonight, and if Iceland lose or draw with France (as is likely), they will go through.
Unless you’ve been living in a cave (which you’d think would be perfect in this weather) you’ll be aware of the very hot temperatures in the UK at the moment. Rob Smyth’s research tells us that 33C is predicted for kick-off at the Academy Stadium in Manchester for Italy v Belgium, while the New York Stadium in Rotherham is expected to be an even warmer 35C when Iceland meet France . There will be plenty of cooling breaks.
Kick-off is at 8pm – why not start your exhaustive pre-match reading with our interactive guide to all 368 players at Women’s Euro 2022?