By Yuri Karpenko
After the recent qualification match for Euro-2012 against France (1:1) Belarusian national football team head coach Bernd Stange made three changes in his line-up. He replaced Sergey Veremko with Yuri Zhevnov as goalkeeper (who also became captain), and injured central defender Alexander Martynovich with Sergey Omelyanchuk (who played in mid-field against France last). Meanwhile, veteran Alexander Kulchy was brought back into play after serving a disqualification penalty, taking the position of main halfback. Interestingly, he played his record 92nd match with the national team.
The first half of the match saw the host team take total control of the centre of the field, confidently pushing Luxembourg back and affecting several beautiful strikes. Sadly, no score was forthcoming and, after halftime, Stange sent on Sergey Kornilenko (famous for his high kicks). However, two minutes later, his penalty skills were employed instead. After Kulchy’s strike, a Luxembourg defender grabbed the ball with his hands, allowing the referee to give Kornilenko the opportunity for a flawless 11m penalty kick.
In the 73rd minute, Belarus doubled its lead, with Anton Putilo dribbling past Joubert and scoring the second goal for Belarus. This inspired bolder play and final victory, ending the squad’s run of defeats by Luxembourg (Belarus, coached by Stange, had previously played two matches against the team, earning just one point).
At the after-match press conference, Stange commented that Luxembourg had proven a tougher rival than skilled France, with two challenging matches over four days. Belarus scored 4 points out of 6 possible — a good result. The German expert promised that a ‘new’ team will be presented to fans at coming matches — not in its line-up but in style of play. He emphasised that our players need to take a more active stance.
Belarus is now second in its group, with three more matches to play. On September 2nd, the team will face Bosnia and Herzegovina at home and, on September 6th, will play against them again, away. The qualification round ends on October 7th, with an away match against Romania.