By Igor Grishin
The national teams of Ukraine and Belarus appeared to meet as equals, although the Ukrainian squad went on the attack early, and in a confident manner. Despite retaining possession of the ball for most of the time, they took few shots at Yuri Zhevnov’s net, and the Belarusian goalkeeper was easily able to save them. For a long time, Belarus made no attempt to score. Just one minute before halftime, Timofey Kalachev took a perfect corner kick and Yegor Filipenko sent a header towards Andrey Pyatov’s net. However, the Ukrainian goalie was quick to react.
Belarus’ national football team fails to offer worthy resistance to Slovaks in EURO-2016 qualifying round
In the second half, Belarus took more initiative and played several dangerous attacks, yet still failed to score. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian squad managed a goal in the 82nd minute. A kick from the left flank sent the ball towards Belarusian defender Alexander Martynovich; it deflected from his leg and resulted in an unfortunate ‘own goal’. The Belarusian team united their efforts but to no avail. Just 30 seconds before the final whistle, Sergey Sidorchuk brought the score to 2:0.
The head coach of the Belarusian national team, Georgy Kondratiev, noted after the game that his team hadn’t played badly and hadn’t lacked opportunities but had experienced some bad luck at key moments. He admitted, “In the first half, our guests controlled the ball, while we failed to organise ourselves. In the second half, we were more co-ordinated, seizing the initiative, but lacked accuracy. A draw would have been a fair result.”
Unfortunately, the next game, against Slovenia, saw Belarus lose 1:3, bringing it close to being knocked-out of the European Championship play-offs. In fact, Borisov-Arena was hardly filled with fans, who were perhaps in despair; some sectors were actually empty. When the Slovaks scored their second goal, some fans who had been watching chose to leave early.
After the match, Georgy Kondratiev admitted that the squad had deserved its defeat. He added, “We lost to a wonderful team of a higher level; diligence wasn’t enough and we don’t deserve to go through to the European Championship with such play. If there’s no result, the coach should quit. As I’ve promised, I’ll leave. I’ve made the decision and I think that the Federation won’t object.”
Qualifying for EURO-2016 now seems unfeasible, despite early hopes.