Handball players try to break into Europe

Last seconds of European Handball Championship qualification match between Belarus and Slovenia see Denis Rutenko score, producing a draw and leaving fans’ hopes wide open
By Dmitry Baranovsky

The current qualification series for Yury Shevtsov’s team is important not only because of his ambitions for Belarus gaining a place among the handballing elite. Last year, the squad reached the finals of the World Championship, which was certainly an achievement. The recent European qualification round was a similar test and proved quite challenging, since Group G is filled with recognised leaders. 

The debut match was against Iceland, in Reykjavik; ranked 10th at the last Europe Championship, 6th at the World Championship and 5th at the Olympics, its achievements are impressive. However, until the 39th minute, its two point lead remained unsteady. Following this, the Icelandic team gathered strength, so the Belarusian result can hardly be called disastrous. 

The team’s second match was against Slovenia, to whom it has usually lost in the past. In fact, the current leader of the Belarusian team, Sergey Rutenko, played for the Slovenian team for a long time. He and his brother Denis became the main heroes of the match, each scoring half of the team’s goals. However, even their brilliant game wasn’t sufficient to generate a clear win. Minsk’s Sport Palace saw the team playing strategic and skillful handball, leading to a score of 3-4 by the end of the first half. The squad was eager to produce a decisive victory, regardless of Dmitry Nikulenkov’s injury and Ivan Brovko being sent off. Despite five penalty shots, Sergey Rutenko failed to use any to score and the team certainly faced problems in the second half, but managed to draw; this leaves the situation in Group G open.

The group’s squads do seem quite equally matched, with the advantage obviously falling during home matches. A place in the finals of the European Championship is not guaranteed even for the powerful Icelandic team. Matches will now continue next April.
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