With next month's UEFA European Under-21 Championship in Denmark drawing ever nearer, Belarus captain Mikhail Sivakov has warned that his team will be out "to win every game" in the competition.
Making their third appearance at the finals, Georgi Kondratyev's side begin their Group A campaign against Iceland in Aarhus on 11 June before taking on hosts Denmark and Switzerland as they seek to reach the knockout stage for the first time.
Back-to-back friendly defeats against a Turkey 'B' team in February slightly tempered the excitement of a thrilling play-off comeback that saw Belarus oust Italy to qualify for this summer's showcase, yet a stirring performance in a 1-1 friendly draw away to fellow finalists Spain in March bolstered belief.
"Of course we will be more confident going into the finals on the back of that Spain result," Sivakov told UEFA.com. "They are one of the best teams at this level in Europe and our result against them has brought us more strength and confidence."
The Cagliari Calcio midfielder – currently on loan at Polish league leaders Wisła Kraków – will be appearing in his second finals for Belarus and the immense experience he has gained so far in his career has helped to fire the 23-year-old's ambition. "As footballers we know that nobody can be sure of winning any given tournament but I personally would like to win this particular one," said the former FC BATE Borisov player.
Having featured in UEFA Champions League games against the likes of Real Madrid CF and Juventus in the past, Sivakov has witnessed at first hand the value of individual talent, yet it is the collective approach he feels will help Belarus to prosper in Denmark.
"We don't have an outstanding player who can deliver a winning result but playing as a team is where our strength lies," he explained. "We are strong as a group and very close to one another. We will be aiming for a win in every match but we will see what happens in Denmark."
Advancing to a possible semi-final where they would face Spain, England, Ukraine or the Czech Republic is the goal for Belarus as they finalise their plans for June's finals, and with Kondratyev at the helm, Sivakov believes his side have the right man to lead them there. "Our coach is a very strong one; he is a specialist," he added. "He is very skilled and prepares us very well for each match and each opponent. He puts his heart and soul into the team and we respond in kind. We are fighting for him."
Provisional Belarus squad
Goalkeepers: Aleksandr Gutor (FC BATE Borisov), Artyom Gomelko (FC Lokomotiv Moskva), Dmitri Guschenko (FC Vitebsk), Sergei Chernik (FC Neman Grodno).
Defenders: Oleg Veretilo (FC Dinamo Minsk), Sergei Politevich (FC Dinamo Minsk), Sergei Matveychik (FC Gomel), Yegor Filipenko (FC BATE Borisov), Yuri Ostroukh (FC Vedrich-97 Rechytsa), Igor Karpovich (FC Naftan Novopolotsk), Artem Rakhmanov (FC Minsk), Maksim Vitus (FC Partizan Minsk), Evgeni Savostyanov (FC Neman Grodno), Yuri Ryzhko (FC Torpedo Zhodino), Dmitri Shmatko (FC Partizan Minsk), Vitali Gayduchik (FC Dinamo Brest), Aleksei Kozlov (FC Torpedo Zhodino), Denis Polyakov (FC Shakhtyor Soligorsk), Denis Obrazov (FC Dnepr Mogilev), Valeri Karshakevich (FC Torpedo Zhodino), Evgeni Kuntsevich (FC BATE Borisov).
Midfielders: Dmitri Rekish (Polonia Warszawa), Stanislav Dragun (FC Dinamo Minsk), Mikhail Sivakov (Wisła Kraków), Pavel Nekhaychik (FC BATE Borisov), Dmitri Baga (FC BATE Borisov), Nikita Bukatkin (FC Naftan Novopolotsk), Mikhail Gordeychuk (FC BATE Borisov), Aleksandr Tolkanitsa (FC Partizan Minsk), Vitali Kibuk (FC Dinamo Minsk), Igor Lisitsa (FC Belshina Bobruisk).
Forwards: Maksim Skavysh (FC BATE Borisov), Vladimir Yurchenko (FC Shakhtyor Soligorsk), Andrei Voronkov (FC Kryvbas Kryvyi Rih), Dmitri Khlebosolov (FC Naftan Novopolotsk), Dmitri Yuzvovich (FC Partizan Minsk), Yegor Zubovich (FC Belshina Bobruisk), Vladimir Khvaschinski (FC Dinamo Brest), Nikolai Zenko (FC Minsk), Aleksandr Perepechko (FC Dinamo Minsk).
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