The EURO 2000™ qualifying campaign was miserable for Belarus as they gained just three points and four goals from eight matches and finished bottom in Group One.
The Belarussians lost to Wales both home and away. Their only decent performance came against Italy on 31 March 1999 when they held their star opponents to a 1-1 draw. Belarus even managed to open the scoring through Maxim Romashenko, but Filippo Inzaghi erased that lead seven minutes later.
This away game in Italy was perhaps the best match ever played by the national team. It was made all the more remarkable for the fact it was played in the midst of an otherwise dreadful campaign. Belarus skipper Sergey Gurenko signed for AS Roma a few weeks after the match, and made history as the first ever Belarussian to play in Serie A. Although Belarus lost five games and drew three, they managed to take points from Italy twice. On the last day of the qualifying tournament in Minsk they held the Italians to a scoreless draw. Their other point was garnered from a home draw with Denmark, but the lost both their encounters with Switzerland.
Malofeev lands job
After the EURO 2000™ failure, in a move intended to rejuvenate the national team the Belarus Football Federation sacked coach Mihail Vergeenko and gave the job to Sergey Borovskiy, who had already coached the side in the early 1990s. However after Belarus lost friendlies against Andorra and Estonia in 2000, federation officials acted swiftly sacked Borovskiy too. Famous former FC Dinamo Minsk player and coach Eduard Malofeev was then called on to try and bring together a talented, but rather unsuccessful squad. The new coach aimed for the top immediately, announcing that he intended to take Belarus to the 2002 FIFA World Cup finals in Korea/Japan.
A step away
Amazingly, Malofeev came close to fulfilling his promise staying in contention in qualifying Group Five until the very last match. With a total of 15 points, Belarus were just a step away from reaching the play-offs - a feat that would have been the most memorable event in the footballing history of the former Soviet state.
Great home record
In their World Cup qualifying campaign, Belarus boasted a great home record, producing four wins out of five, beating Wales, Armenia and Norway (all by the same 2-1 scoreline) and thrashing group winners Poland 4-1.. Unfortunately, Malofeev’s side failed to win the game they needed to win the most - a home encounter against former-Soviet arch-rivals Ukraine. They lost the match 2-0 thanks to an Andriy Shevchenko double and their hopes of qualifying evaporated. Nevertheless Malofeev, who has been re-appointed for the EURO 2004™ qualifying campaign, will hope to build on his side’s impressive performances in the last year as they seek to reach the finals in Portugal.
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