Belgium secured the last spot in the Euro 2022 quarter-finals as Tina De Caigny’s goal beat Italy 1-0 in sweltering temperatures in Manchester on Monday.
The Hoffenheim striker’s predatory finish early in the second half made sure of second place in Group B behind France to set up a last eight meeting with Sweden on Friday.
Despite scoring a late penalty, a 1-1 draw for Iceland against a much-changed France was not enough for them to progress as they became the first side to bow out of a women’s Euro from the group stage unbeaten.
In just their second ever major tournament, Belgium reached the knockout phase for the first time to round off a miserable few weeks for Italy.
“This is a historic night for Belgian women’s football,” said Belgium coach Ives Serneels.
“This might be the best moment yet. It has been a long time in the making.
“I’ve been with the Belgian women’s national team for 11 years now, so I’m ecstatic that we’re going to the quarter-finals.”
Hopes had been high for the Azzurre given Juventus’ promising run in the Champions League last season and the upcoming professionalisation of the women’s Serie A.
However, they failed to recover from shipping five goals in the first half to France in their opening game.
“We lacked calmness,” said Italy coach Milena Bertolini. “We put too much pressure on ourselves.”
That 5-1 defeat meant Italy needed to win to progress due to their inferior goal difference to both Belgium and Iceland.
Chances were few and far between in a first half affected by the conditions with temperatures reaching 36 degrees celsius as a heatwave hit Britain on Monday.
Belgium got the goal just four minutes into the second half when a free-kick into the Italian box fell at the feet of De Caigny to sweep home her 38th international goal.
Italy nearly hit back immediately when Cristiana Girelli curled a brilliant effort off the underside of the bar.
But that was as close as they came to getting back in the game and Belgium were inches away from a second in stoppage time as Tessa Wullaert hit the post.
In Rotherham, France did enough to see off Iceland’s hopes of reaching the quarter-finals, whilst still keeping plenty in reserve for their last eight clash with holders the Netherlands on Saturday.
A serious knee injury to Marie-Antoinette Katoto that has ended her tournament gave Melvine Malard the chance to start up front.
The Lyon striker took less than a minute to open the scoring when she slotted Clara Mateo’s pass into the far corner.
France had two further goals from Malard and substitute Grace Geyoro ruled out after VAR reviews.
And another controversial VAR call gifted Iceland a penalty with the last-kick of the game.
Dagny Brynjarsdottir smashed the spot-kick into the top corner, but it was too little, too late for Iceland who go out after drawing all three of their group games.