18/12/2019

Belarus rely on mix of young and old

MEN’S EHF EURO 2020 COUNTDOWN #12: Belarus. For the fourth time in succession, the team coached by Iouri Chevtsov will line-up with the continental handball elite

Belarus and goalkeeper Viachaslau Saldatsenka hope to have reason to celebrate again at the EHF EURO. Photo: EHF/Sasa Pahic Szabo

Belarus have played all three editions of the EHF EURO since 2014, and under the leadership of head coach Iouri Chevtsov, reached the main round each time.

Now they are back for the fourth time is succession, with an interesting blend of talented and experienced players.

Three questions before the Men’s EHF EURO 2020:

- Can Uladzislau Kulesh become as important for the team as Siarhei Rutenka was in the past?

After Rutenka retired from handball three years ago, Belarusian fans have been waiting for a player of the same caliber in the national team. Many people claim that the 23-year-old Kulesh, who is also a left back, has a potential to follow in Rutenka’s footsteps.

Indeed, the player from PGE Vive Kielce is a big talent, but he is yet to become a real leader for Belarus. The experience at tournaments like EHF EURO should help him to mature and become more important for his country.

- Will the mix of young talents and veterans work?

On paper, Belarusian coach Iouri Chevtsov has an almost perfect mix at his disposal. Young talents like Uladzislau Kulesh, Artsem Karalek or Mikita Vailupau have already become key figures in the national team, while veterans Siarhei Shylovich, Dzmitry Nikulenkau and Barys Pukhouski have played an important role for many years and are still in good shape.

If the combination of young and old works well, it will only help Belarus to achieve success at the EHF EURO.

- Will Iouri Chevtsov make the right choice of goalkeepers?

At EHF EURO both in 2016 and 2018, Belarus' Viachaslau Saldatsenka made the list of the top 10 goalkeepers, with save percentages of 34 and 35 per cent respectively. However, now Chevtsov can rely on four goalkeepers of pretty much the same level - Saldatsenka (currently at Romania's Bacau), Ivan Matskevich from HC Meshkov Brest, and SKA Minsk’s Ivan Maroz and Aliaksei Kishou. Chevtsov has a tough choice to make.

Under the spotlight: Barys Pukhouski

Captain Barys Pukhouski has a special role in the Belarusian team, as he is their all-time best scorer with more than 750 goals. The 32-year-old centre back has acquired a lot of international experience both with his club Motor Zaporozhye in the VELUX EHF Champions League, and with Belarus at EHF EURO and World Championships.

Notably in the EHF EURO 2016, he finished fourth in the top scorers' list with 70 goals, and now he is certain to be the key man for Belarus once again.

Self-esteem

“We know that the Balkan teams can play handball, and it will be very hard, but in this group, anything is possible. Croatia will be the favourites, but at the previous EURO, we had a close game with them and had a chance to snatch points on their court,” Belarus head coach Iouri Chevtsov said.

Fun fact

In group A, Belarus will play against three teams from former Yugoslavia - Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia. In qualification the Belarusians met another Balkan team, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the teams exchanged away victories.

What the numbers say

In the last two editions of EHF EURO, in 2016 and 2018, Belarus finished in 10th place.

written by Sergey Nikolaev / jh