JEROEN ADRIAANSE / AIPS in TILBURG: The entire defence of the Belgian Red Flames seemed to freeze when Lieke Martens drifted inside the final third.

With her quick feet and close control, Martens almost transformed herself into a flamenco dancer to seal a 2-1 victory over the Netherlands’ neighbours and thus qualify for the quarter-finals of UEFA Women’s EURO 2017.

As the game progressed, the Dutch tactics became clearer by the minute. Either Martens or Shanice van de Sanden had to be fed from the heart of the pitch.

With her low centre of gravity and outstanding agility, Martens often hugs the touchline when she is at the receiving end of a pass.

Her strength comes into play when the 24-year-old has the ball at her feet to run at defenders and beat them.

Being technically gifted, Martens earned herself a high-profile transfer to Spanish side FC Barcelona, becoming FC Barcelona Women’s highest paid player.

On Monday evening, everything fell into place. According to Opta, she became only the third player to have both scored and assisted a goal in this tournament.

The official player of the match said: “Even though I did not find the back of the net during the previous two games, I remained confident in my abilities.

At times, Martens made her direct opponents look foolish, as she beat Laura Deloose and Elke van Gorp with ease.

With 25 minutes to play, the scoreline was level at 1-1. Once again, Martens decided to cut inside and drift into space. Her shot took a deflection off Heleen Jaques and looped over goalkeeper Justien Odeurs to strke gold.

She said: “As the ball was floating mid-air, I simply hoped it would go in. It is for sure one of the ugliest goals I have ever scored. But scoring such an important goal during a European Championship was a dream come true.”

As the Netherlands are off to Doetinchem to face the Group B runners-up on Saturday, Martens showed again that she has all the tools to bring her talents to a wider stage. The groundwork of a fruitful career has been laid, now the time has come to reap the benefits with both FC Barcelona and the Netherlands.

** AIPS is the international sports journalists’ association with 10,000 members worldwide and which is currently running a Young Reporters project in the Netherlands with the cooperation and support of European federation UEFA. More information at