By Yuri Karpenko
In the fifth round of sub-group D, Bernd Stange’s trainees lost in Tirana to Albania — 0:1. In fact, the host team demonstrated a great advantage and it was only the skilled efforts of Belarusian goalkeeper Sergey Veremko which saved us from a more crushing defeat. In the 62nd minute, even he failed to compensate for defenseman Alexander Martynovich’s mistake, leaving our statistics spoilt by one goal. Main goalkeeper and captain Yuri Zhevnov was absent due to injury, which may have affected our play.
Certainly, the Belarusian squad’s performance was lacking, although it was hardly surprising with seven core players absent. Nevertheless, before the match in Albania, Bernd Stange radiated optimism.
In sub-group D, two more matches were held. France easily defeated Luxembourg in an away match — 2:0, while Bosnia and Herzegovina defeated Romania in a tough match at home — 2:1. The situation within the group is now as follows: France — 12 points after 5 matches, Albania and Belarus 8 points each (5 matches), Bosnia and Herzegovina — 7 (4 matches), Romania — 5 (5 matches) and Luxembourg — 1 (6 matches).
Obviously, the French team, coached by Laurent Blanc, is unlikely to lose its top position. Three or four teams are to continue battling for second place within the sub-group, allowing the chance for a place at the 2012 European Championship finals. Belarus is to play its next three matches at home: on June 3rd and 7th against France and Luxembourg respectively, and on September 2nd against Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Belarusian fans should not be too disappointed, although defeat in Albania has complicated our position. We are still second in sub-group D and the coming home matches may open the path to the 2012 European Championship. While training, Belarus for the first time in its history met the Canadian team in Turkish Antalya, losing 0:1. Our squad held its own but failed to take advantage of several opportunities to score.