Tine De Caigny: Why Hoffenheim’s “dangerous” attacker could be key for Belgium at Euro 2022 – scout report
France may be the favourites to top Group D in next summer’s Euro 2022 tournament, but any of the other three teams in the group (Iceland, Italy and Belgium) could join them in the knockout stages, making it one of the closer groups to call. In terms of players, Iceland have West Ham United Women midfielder Dagny Brynjarsdottir and Lyon Feminin’s Sara Bjork Gunnarsdottir in their squad, whilst Italy boast AC Milan Femmenile striker Valentina Giacinti and Juventus Femmenile playmaker Barbara Bonansea among their key players.
However, Belgium have their own star names, one of which is 24-year-old Hoffenheim Frauen attacker Tine De Caigny, who has impressed since her summer move to the German side from Anderlecht Feminin. This tactical analysis will look at De Caigny’s game in closer detail, both for Hoffenheim and for Belgium, seeing where she fits into both teams’ tactics. The scout report will focus on how she creates space for her teammates, her ability to give her team options around the pitch, and some areas where she can improve her individual game.
The first thing this analysis will look at is how Tine De Caigny creates space for her team. This comes mainly through her movement around the field, but also through her good positioning and spatial awareness, all of which are important characteristics for attackers to have.
The first thing to note is that she is a team player, and will always take opponents away from teammates when she can, helping to build attacks. In this image, the ball has been travelling towards the Norway goal, but has now stopped. However, in order to prevent the Norwegian defenders closing in on it, De Caigny continues her run forwards, with all four opponents following her, as the yellow arrows show. This opens up the player positioned behind them, and the ball is passed into her once the defenders have been removed as a threat.
From this position, Belgium have a better route to goal, and less opponents to prevent them getting there. Therefore, De Caigny’s instinctive movement is important in helping to create goalscoring opportunities, and this is something that both Hoffenheim and Belgium have benefitted from.
Keeping her distance from the ball is something De Caigny does a lot of, and she has moved to the other side of the Albania defence here, with the distance between her and the ball increasing the size of Belgium’s attack. As a result of her positioning, Albania are forced to stretch apart, with the red lines indicating the gaps that have subsequently appeared in their defensive line.
In theory, this gives Belgium the advantage here, with the three attackers in the middle now able to run through the gaps and into the open space behind, receiving the ball and setting up a goalscoring opportunity. However, the Albanian defender nearest the ball closes it down and wins it back, ending the attack early. Despite it not ending as hoped, this situation is another example of how De Caigny’s intelligent positioning helped her team and influenced the actions of the opposing defenders.
De Caigny operates in a similar way when playing for Hoffenheim, as this image shows. This time, she is in the middle of their forward line, moving up the field and again keeping away from the ball. This ensures that the Rosengard defenders around the forwards have to stay away from the ball too, because closing it down would leave the Hoffenheim attackers open and in a position where they could shoot at goal with no opposing pressure. The other thing that this discipline gives Hoffenheim is that the ball can be dribbled further by the midfielder before it is released, which in turn increases the accuracy of any potential shot, as it will come from closer to the goal.
Therefore, De Caigny, with help, has again used her positioning to make the pitch as big as possible and make it easier when the eventual shot comes in. Both of these qualities will be of great use to Belgium next summer.
However, De Caigny doesn’t only remain distant when not in possession, as this would make her too predictable to play against. She can also drop into spaces nearer the midfield, acting as a pivot who receives and passes quickly into space behind defences. Here, she feeds the ball forwards for striker Nicole Billa, in the yellow circle, to run onto, and her overall passing accuracy (79.2%), accuracy of passes to the final third (73.1%) and passes to the penalty area (87.5%) all demonstrate how being a playmaker and playing these short passes is one of her in-game strengths.
This particular opportunity almost leads to a goal for Hoffenheim, with Billa narrowly missing the target, but De Caigny’s positioning was critical in unlocking HB Koge’s defence here. The Danish champions have so far shown themselves to be a formidable team at the back, with their second Champions League opponents, Barcelona Femeni, finding it difficult to break them down. Therefore, having a player like De Caigny was crucial, as her ability to operate in small spaces and feed balls through tight gaps helped Hoffenheim to score five against them, and this is another reason that she will be crucial for Belgium next summer.
As well as creating space for her teammates, Tine De Caigny also gives them plenty of options during games. This is another thing that will be important for Belgium during next summer’s tournament, and has been vital for Hoffenheim in the current campaign.
Another of her notable characteristics is her late runs when in the final third, as she waits for defenders to set themselves up before attacking the spaces they have left open. In this image, Norway have cut off the two forward players, so Belgium’s only realistic option was to pass backwards and try to attack again in another area of the pitch.
However, De Caigny’s run forwards means that this option doesn’t need to be taken, and the ball instead goes horizontally, maintaining the pressure on the defenders. This again comes down to De Caigny’s ability to assess her surroundings and take up positions where she can help her team, and it makes it harder for opponents to defend against her, because they don’t know when or where she will go.
When playing for the national side, De Caigny mostly operates in the central striker role, using her pace to unlock opposing defences, whilst players like ex-Manchester City Women striker Tessa Wullaert and Lyon winger Janice Cayman play either side of her. Their runs behind defences give their teammates passing options in the final third.
However, this is where Belgium have a few problems. Firstly, as a result of her desire to get forward at every opportunity, De Caigny is often caught offside, so she needs to be aware of this and ensure that Belgium don’t waste good chances to score through her line discipline. Something else that needs improving is the team’s crossing accuracy, as Albania played with a high back line in this game, with Belgium continually exploiting the space behind them. However, the cross from Club Brugge Dames defender Jody Vangheluwe here only reaches the defenders and is cleared easily, meaning that the chance was squandered.
Despite this, we should not take away that De Caigny made the initial run into the space, which gave her team the option when they needed it, and having a player who can consistently get into the right positions will always give them an advantage over their opponents.
When playing for Hoffenheim, she also plays as far forward as possible, running between defenders and into the spaces beyond them. Here, three attackers are passing the ball around on the right-hand side of the pitch, in this triangular structure, with three Koge players also in that area.
However, what the attackers are waiting for is a chance to transfer the ball into the middle, which De Caigny is aware of. To give them that option, she runs behind the defenders, who are watching the ball, and gets on the end of the pass when it comes in, scoring Hoffenheim’s fifth goal of the game. Therefore, we can expect her to catch defenders out in the same way next summer, with this ability to move virtually undetected one reason that she has been labelled as a dangerous attacker to play against by some people.
The final way that she gives her team options is on more of a structural level. Hoffenheim play with multiple strikers in each game, and De Caigny is often partnered with Nicole Billa in the final third as a result. However, they don’t both stay at the top of the pitch throughout games, with one dropping back to provide a link between the midfielders and forwards, which is where the pivot role that we looked at previously comes in. De Caigny and Austria striker Billa take it in turns to drop back, with their partnership and understanding a key element of Hoffenheim’s attack so far this season, and it means that De Caigny can play in different systems and switch roles in-play, which will also be important for Belgium at Euro 2022.
Areas to improve
Whilst we have so far analysed the positives in Tine De Caigny’s game, there are a few areas where she can continue to improve her individual performances.
The first improvement she can make is through her ability to adapt to new situations. De Caigny prefers to play alongside others in a forward line, ensuring that she is never caught in 2-v-1s or 3-v-1s against opposing defenders, and this matches Hoffenheim’s preferred style of play.
However, there have been occasions when playing for Belgium that she has been caught on her own, such as here, and she then gets caught in two minds as to whether to pass or shoot. Her passing options here have been cut off by Albania, and her momentary hesitation allowed the defenders to close her down and win back possession. De Caigny has won 45.2% of her duels this season, but only 25% of her offensive duels, so getting caught in situations like this is not where she is strongest.
Another problem she occasionally has is that she doesn’t take her time when shooting at goal. Here, she is in plenty of space just outside Koge’s goal area, with time to control the ball before taking the shot. However, she elects to hit the ball with her first touch, and it goes over the bar. She has scored six goals in all competitions so far this season, and gets 66.7% of her shots on target, but it is occasions like this where we see her waste opportunities to increase her goal tally. She scored 34 goals in 46 games across four seasons for Anderlecht, and was the top scorer in Euro 2022 qualifying with 12 goals, so we know she is a lethal striker when in the final third. However, she sometimes needs a little more composure in possession, and improving this will help her to be even more potent this season.
Belgium as a team struggle with crosses, as we have already seen, and De Caigny is one of those who can waste good opportunities by making poor passes from the wide channels, and her cross here doesn’t get past the first defender. There is a player in the middle, ready to receive the ball, so the target was there for her to find, but her crossing accuracy of just 50% in all competitions this season shows that she needs to work on this aspect of her game.
Currently, opponents can force Belgium to play out to the wings and then be confident of winning the ball back from their crosses, so both De Caigny and Belgium working on this would help them to pose more of a threat in attack and convert more chances.
In conclusion, there is no doubting that Tine De Caigny has been a key player for Hoffenheim so far this season, and will be essential in Belgium’s Euro 2022 campaign. Whilst France will be a tough game for them, both Iceland and Italy are beatable, but Belgium will need to have different ways of playing in order to break them down. As has been shown in this analysis, De Caigny is versatile, able to operate in different roles, and this could be what Belgium need to win games next summer. However, there are still a few areas where she can improve her game before then, so there is room for her to become even better before she meets up with the national team next summer, and that is why a lot of people are getting excited about her potential.