By Yuri Karpenko
At the beginning of the year, the Belarusian mini football team reached the finals of the European Championship for the first time, while our women’s squad came third in the qualification round for the 2011 World Championship, following such grands of European women’s football as Norway and Holland. Meanwhile, it was the first time that three Belarusian squads reached the Europa League qualifying play-offs: Dynamo Minsk, Dnepr Mogilev and BATE Borisov. Moreover, BATE went through to the group stage and to the knockout round of the tournament — for the first time in their history. Our team also did brilliantly in the qualification round for the Junior European Championship, reaching the finals after defeating Italy. This was the third time that our junior team has gone through to play among Europe’s top eight, with Georgy Kondratiev’s trainees having every chance of making junior football history in Belarus; if they reach the semi-finals in Denmark, they could end up playing at the summer 2012 Olympics.
The main national football team of Belarus is showing promising results in preparation for the 2012 European Championship, earning 8 points over 4 matches and letting through not a single goal. The head coach of our squad, Bernd Stange, believes that, despite a successful start, it’s too early to comment on the team’s achievements. He believes the main struggle lies ahead. The German expert notes that Belarus is not yet a football leader and has some way to go to reach those heights, needing proper organisation and infrastructure. Commenting on last season’s performance, his main joy has been our away victory over world-recognised France (1:0). However, he was hugely disappointed by our home draw against Romania — 0:0. The result in Minsk irritated him even more than our away draw against Luxembourg. Victory in Paris inspired fans and experts alike to anticipate Belarus’ triumph at home against Romania. Still, the Belarusian squad is still in with a chance of reaching the finals of the European Championship.
Belarus is to open a new football season with a match against Kazakhstan, to be hosted by Antalya, Turkey, on February 9th. According to Bernd Stange, Kazakhstan is not viewed as the strongest opponent for our national team but was the only choice. Matches against Poland in Portugal or Algeria in London were suggested but rejected. BATE Borisov, which sends core players to the national squad, is to have a play-off match as part of the Europa League on February 16th, so its head coach Victor Goncharenko has requested a training session in Turkey and match against Kazakhstan, enabling to gather the strongest line-up.
Stange notes that, on February 8th, the junior team of Belarus will play against Russia, helping it to prepare for the final tournament of the 2011 European Championship. Its coaches will be able to watch these future pretenders to the national team in action.