Some dreams come true
Belarusian team reaches World Handball Championship 1/8 finals for second time since 1995, when it was headed by famous coach Spartak Mironovich
By Dmitry Baranovsky
Yury Shevtsov’s trainees could have earned a place in the play-offs ahead of schedule. Moreover, having beaten Slovenia, they might have enjoyed third or, even, second place in the group, bringing a better draw in the knock-out round. The Slovenians appeared as favourites but the Belarusians were also quite sensational.
This match was principal for our squad because of several reasons. Interestingly, Sergey Rutenko has previously played for the Slovenian team, so was facing his friends while battling for his home country. He did well, proving himself the top shooter. It was largely due to Sergey that Belarus led by five points when the half-time whistle blew. Alas, he is not God, and the Slovenians managed to find an ‘antidote’ to the skills of the Spanish Barcelona player in the second half, when they scored the winning goal at the last second — after a penalty imposed for the removal of Rutenko.
This unfortunate defeat has not deprived Belarus of its place in the play-offs, as its final match in the group round saw an easy defeat of Saudi Arabia, leaving it in fourth place. However, in the 1/8 finals, the squad will have to face Spain — one of handball’s trend setters and the host of the tournament. Incidentally, Rutenko has also been a leading player with Barcelona’s handball team and even holds a Spanish passport, which still allows him to play for their national team. He has won various tournaments, including the Champions League, playing for his Spanish squad, which may help.
Belarusian fans are interested in the World Championship not only because of the national team. They are also keen to see matches featuring legionaries who play for Belarusian clubs: Vasko Sevaljevic, the main shooter and leader of the national team of Montenegro (with 14 goals); and Rade Mijatović, their main goalkeeper.
Pavel Atman and Vadim Bogdanov, from Minsk Dinamo, are playing for the Russian team. Atman is ranked in the middle of the team’s ‘forward list’ and is one of the best passers in the tournament. Bogdanov, in goal, has saved almost half of all shots at the net, in the principal match against Danes. However, Russia has lost and is currently in second place in the group but is aiming for the champion title and aims to prove its leader status in the play-offs. Former Belarusian player Sergey Gorbok is also with the Russian squad, having transferred his loyalties to the team he thought had more chance of winning the title. He could yet be proven wrong.