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24.11.2015, 11:14
Belarus want to prove their critics wrong
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EHF EURO INSIGHTS: After a dismal performance at the World Championship 2015, Belarus have something to make up for come the EHF EURO 2016
 

Belarus want to prove their critics wrong

The critics made themselves hear loud and clear after Belarus' 18th place at the World Championship 2015 in Qatar, a ranking the majority believed was way below the team's abilities.

Now, with the EHF EURO 2016 in Poland on the horizon, the team is out to prove the doubtful wrong – but this is certainly not an easy task.

The goal is to advance from the preliminary round in which Belarus face Croatia, Norway and Iceland in Group B.

While this is arguably not a 'group of death' at its purest, the fight for the three spots in the main round is nevertheless expected to be tough and the recent results of Belarus have been anything but positive.

In early November, head coach Iouri Chevtsov's team had no success at the Provident Cup in Debrecen.

They lost to Argentina and Hungary and finished third. Belarus were able to beat a Hungary B-team in a friendly game, but that was obviously not enough to please the fans.

Only one Rutenka

Many teamleaders looked somewhat tired in these games. Maybe those who play in the VELUX EHF Champions League, in particular the HC Meshkov Brest players, were exhausted by their tight calendar in the recent weeks.

On the right wing, the team definitely struggled without Dzianis Rutenka, who has recently undergone a knee surgery and will miss most of the season, including the EHF EURO. However, this is a chance for his clubmate Maxim Baranov to step up.

Luckily for Belarus, the other Rutenka, the more famous Siarhei, is fit. The 34-year-old left back has recently moved from Barcelona to Qatar side Lekhwiya and he is still a key figure in the national team, and his shape has a major influence on the team's performance.

The younger left backs Kiryl Kniazieu, Anton Prakapenya and iktar Zaitsau can be relied on in case of emergency, but still they can hardly step out of Rutenka's shadow.

The centre back position is also well-manned. Chevtsov can rely on Barys Pukhouski, who currently plays for Ukraine club Motor Zaporozhye and on Dzmitry Nikulenkau from Brest.

Both are quite experienced players who are capable of taking the lead and responsibility. At right back, Chevtsov most often trusts Siarhei Shylovich from Brest.

Another player on this position, Aleh Astrashapkin, used to be a member of this club as well, but received little time on court and opted to move to Hungary's Vaci.

At left wing, the coach has to basically choose between 35-year-old Ivan Brouka and 19-year-old youngster Andrei Yurinok. By the way, both play for the same club, SKA Minsk.

Another option for Chevtsov is Aliaksander Tsitou from Masheka, who is actually a line player but recently has often played on the left flank.

And if Tsitou is used on the line, he will face more competition competition as Belarus possess a number of good players in that position.

Maxim Babichau and the young Artem Karalek can contribute well to the national team.

Focus on talents

Belarus' weakness in the recent years have been the goalkeepers.

Vitali Charapenka from Brest has been criticized a lot, but now he seems to be in a decent shape. Ivan Matskevich, who moved from SKA Minsk to Steaua Bucharest this summer, also seems to get more international experience and confidence.

At the same time experienced men like Rutenka, Pukhouski, Nikulenkau or Tsitou are still playing key roles in the team, but Iouri Chevtsov tries to bring some fresh blood to the team.

Belarus are riding a positive wave in that respect at the moment – the national junior teams have been regularly playing at European and World Championship in recent years.

Just this summer, Belarus took a record-high 6th place at the Junior World Championship in Brazil. The leaders of that team, Artem Karalek and Andrei Yurinok, have already proven themselves in the senior team, and they have a good chance to play in Poland.

The talented young generation makes Belarus' fans hope that the national team has a good future. "Our unsuccessful performance in Qatar has shown that the team needs new forces.

With this purpose, we are developing young players and hope to create a new team with a new character in the future. Our first goal at the EHF EURO is to advance to the main round, which would already be considered a great success,” says Iouri Chevtsov.


TEXT: Sergey Nikolaev / ts
 
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