Almost no one would have bet on her and yet the top scorer in qualifying for Euro 2022 is Belgian. Her name: Tine De Caigny. With twelve achievements on the clock, the versatile striker, who joined Hoffenheim last season, will be among the Red Flames, opponents whom the French will have to be wary of so that the fireworks planned for the national holiday do not end in wet firecrackers. .
07/14/2022 at 9 p.m.
“We can no longer be satisfied with being at the Euro. We really have to focus and show that we are ready to perform (do a performance, in VF), that we are better than before. Everyone works hard and tends towards that. Our group is great and can only grow. Give time and you will see a very good team. » This sentence, Tine De Caigny pronounced it a year and a half ago, just before facing Switzerland and scoring a double which sealed the first place in group H for the Red Flames and, on a personal level, her status as top scorer in qualifying for the European Championship in England. At the time, she was 23 and playing her fourth season at Sporting Anderlecht. The last too, because during the last transfer window, the native of Beveren, in East Flanders, chose to go into exile in the Bundesliga, in Hoffenheim. It was not a first, De Caigny having already tried the experience abroad in 2016, with a lackluster season spent on the side of Vålerenga in Norway (only 518 minutes played in six appearances and only one small goal scored). “I left at eighteen and it was too early for me, I was not readyjudges the person concerned with hindsight. You have to be sure you have enough experience and perhaps acquire more in the Belgian Super League before considering a change of direction. »
According to his former coach at Sporting Patrick Wachel, the return to the fold has been beneficial to him: “Arriving from Norway in January 2017, she didn’t need a lot of time to rebuild herself because she already knew several players from the national team, so her integration into the squad was very quick.replays the one who had the young woman in the sights for some time now, in 2015 more exactly, when he was training Standard. At the time, she was playing in Brugge and I really wanted her in my team. But the national coach had rather advised her to go to Lierse, to a club he knew well, making her the promise that if she signed there, he would call her to the national team. Well, at least he kept his word: I think she arrived on a Tuesday and the following week, she started with the Flames. »
“We must not forget her size, this 1.80m she takes from her parents. She is really strong, it is still an advantage in modern football. » Patrick Wachel, former coach of Anderlecht
In Anderlecht, Patrick Wachel will for his part operate a change in the game of Tine De Caigny which will prove decisive for the future: his repositioning on the ground. “When she started out in Bruges, she played as a central defender. When I picked her up, she was in midfield for the national team, first in 6, then in 8, two positions that require the large volume of running she has. Then, following the departure of Ella Van Kerkhoven for Inter, I needed a striker, so I replaced her in number 9 and her role in the national team followed behind. » Now able to play up front, behind the striker, even as number 10, De Caigny is distinguished by a versatility that is in no way a weakness, as evidenced by her three consecutive titles of Belgian champion gleaned with Anderlecht between 2018 and 2020 and, icing on the cake, the Women’s Golden Shoe that she won that same year.
“Among her other qualities, she has a very good vision of the game and an above-average technique, at least for the Belgian level. For a coach, it’s very pleasant to work with her, she’s the first to set an example in training. She is very hardworking and quickly understands what is expected of her. And then we must not forget her height, this 1.80m that she takes from her parents. She is really strong, it is still an advantage in modern footballlists Wachel, who nevertheless wishes to underline the only weakness of his ex-protégé. I find that she does not yet use her physique enough on the pitch, she does not yet have enough impact on the opponent. If she used her body, she could play at an even higher level. »
Happiness in Germany
At 24 and after a cycle of four seasons in Brussels, Tine De Caigny is therefore ready to recross a border and to cut the cord with the family and friendly cocoon that is so dear to her. “I think signing in Germany was a good decision for her to toughen up even more” , judge Patrick Wachel, who remembers moving farewells, but necessary. In Hoffenheim, well installed in third place from Buli, behind the pair Wolfsburg-Bayern, the attacker lands in another world. “I saw directly that there is more tempo and power, because I evolve among other things with German internationals. In terms of enthusiasm too, it changes. When we played at Bayern, the stadium was full, and a lot of people watched the game, because it was on TV. Now I’m playing in the European Cup and it’s satisfying to finally get there. Because let’s be honest, in three appearances with Anderlecht, we haven’t really achieved the objectives we had set ourselves at European level. »
Above all, De Caigny discovers that it is possible to make a full-time living from football. Exit therefore the double project, finished half-time in this sports store where she worked three times a week before going to train in the evening. An example far from being unique, but symptomatic of the state of Belgian football according to Patrick Wachel: “When we look at the last four years, we notice that the countries which have progressed the most are Portugal, Spain, Italy and England, which have almost all professionalized their championship. This is not the case in Belgium, so we are not progressing. And so we regress. » And the one who is currently on leave to illustrate his point by recalling that “In Anderlecht, and while we were supposed to be one of the highest clubs in Belgium, we couldn’t start training until 8 p.m. after the working day. We also changed pitches every week, and the girls sometimes had to change in their cars because we didn’t have a designated changing room until the last season I was on the job. And we had to push hard to get it! » All this tells the trainer that the path taken by De Caigny could well become the norm for future Belgian hopefuls in the future. Meanwhile, only 10 of the 23 Flames selected by Ives Serneels have taken the plunge. And the Blues remain favorites of this Quiévrainico of July 14. Unless Tine De Caigny, who remained silent against Iceland, makes the powder speak? “I believe that France must above all be wary of itself. She shouldn’t look down on Belgium.” , mischievously predicts Patrick Wachel. Of which act.
By Julien Duez, in Rotherham
Words from PW collected by JD, those from TDC by Sport/Foot Magazine and the Belgian federation.