By Dmitry Komashko
The current European Championship is the moment of truth for the Belarusian national handball team. Last year’s appearance of Belarusian players at the world tournament, 18 years after the successful debut of our country at the top level, (under the guidance of legendary coach, Spartak Mironovich) was perceived by many as a successful turn of events. For Yuri Shevtsov’s team, the European Championship has become an opportunity to prove their ability, doing this in the most efficient and honorary manner — by showing their results on the scoreboard.
At first, that score hasn’t pleased the fans so far, with Belarusians losing the starting match of the tournament against one of the leaders of world handball, the Croatian team. That defeat could have been explained by the difference in the level of squads and the absence of the leader of the Belarusian national team, the world’s most expensive handball player and mid-fielder of Spanish team, Barcelona, Sergey Rutenko. In the next match of the group stage Rutenko did play against the Swedes, but the result of that meeting wasn’t too optimistic either — 22:30. The reasons for what has happened can be easily seen by looking at the statistics. Over the first two matches, the Belarusian squad made 96 shots, with only 44 of these being resultative. The current leaders have the hit ratio at about 60 percent, Sweden — 63 percent, Denmark and Spain — 65 percent and France — 66 percent… The performance of the goal keepers doesn’t inspire optimism either, with Vitaly Cherepenko being the best among the Belarusians so far, but he had hardly saved 25 percent of the balls.
Anyway, this was enough. Of course, Vitaly Cherepenko’s reliability became not the only factor of the heroic (without exaggeration) victory over Montenegrins. Our handballers have managed to scratch the necessary ‘+6’ points after two defeats, which testifies to the level of readiness of the Belarusians and their psychological reserves. At the right time, our players recollected their courage and did what thousands of their fans were expecting from them. Unfortunately, they failed to preserve this ‘combat state’ during a long time.
Probably, the match against the national squad of Poland has become one of the most dramatic and tense matches of the current European Championship. Several dozen seconds before the final whistle, pleasant (for Belarusians) figures still were shining on the scoreboard at the sports complex in Aarhus. Soon Polish players evened up scores. Nevertheless, even the draw left some illusory hopes. However, Dmitry Kamyshik’s adventurous shot has spoilt everything. Several seconds before the end of the match, a young player of the Belarusian team decided to finish the attack — not inaccessible for the Polish team. In the return attack, the rival cold-bloodedly reached the minimum victory with the score of 31:30, thus depriving Belarusians of their hopes for continuation of the European campaign.
Nevertheless, assessing the results of the Belarusians’ performance in Denmark, it’s important to talk about the European Championship. The cream of the world handball is concentrated on the grounds of the Old World, so there are no easy rivals at the European Championships. The head coach of the Belarusian national handball team, Yuri Shevtsov, was speaking about this on the eve of their departure to Denmark, noting that just the appearance of the Belarusians among the European giants alone was worth its weight in gold.