By Yuri Karpenko
Our Belarusian squad has returned from the continental forum (in which it has participated twice before) with their best result to date. For the first time, the squad is through to the semi-finals, having taken bronze at this honourable event, earning them a ticket for the 2012 Summer Games in London. Only the Belarusian women’s basketball squad rivals this achievement, having taken part in the 2008 Games.
The bronze medal and the longed-for Olympic place were largely due to Yegor Filipenko’s 89th minute goal, in the match against the Czech Republic, since no more goals were scored. After the win, the BATE defenseman admitted that, taking into consideration their semi-final match against Spain, they had wanted to achieve a better result — reaching the main stage of the competition. Their success is incredible, as our Belarusian under-21 team was close to defeating the future European champions. However, Georgy Kondratiev’s trainees failed to withstand their experienced rivals, who equalised the score and even scored two more balls during extra time. Later, Spain went on to confidently knock out Switzerland in the finals, capturing their third under-21 European Championship title.
“Our guys deserve praise for their achievement, having really given their best on the field; they struggled hard and gave us some beautiful football,” asserts head coach Georgy Kondratiev. BATE forward Maxim Skavysh also contributed to Belarus’ success, with a precise goal against Iceland sending our team to the semi-final stage of the tournament.
“The secret of our success is team spirit, experienced coaching and, of course, luck! We should be focusing on the performance for our club right now but thoughts are flying ahead to the Olympics. I hope we’ll perform not worse than at the European Championship,” notes Maxim.
Only those born after 1989 will be able to attend the 2012 Olympics, according to the rules, so eleven of our European Championship heroes will miss out on the Games. Fortunately, Dragun, Filipenko, Nekhaichik and Sivakov — all key players — still have a chance to participate in the Olympics as the coach has the right to enter three players of any age on the team.