Three weeks after being unveiled as the coach of Belarus on a four-year contract, Georgi Kondratyev spoke to UEFA.com about his hopes for the future, a tough 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying group and how he will initially combine the post with his role as trainer of the country's Olympic team.
Kondratyev, who guided Belarus to third place at the 2011 UEFA European Under-21 Championship, also outlined his intention to keep a debutants initiation ceremony brought in, to much amusement, by predecessor Bernd Stange.
UEFA.com: Was it a hard decision to take the job while head coach of the Olympic squad?
Georgi Kondratyev: After we played so well in the UEFA European Under-21 Championship and finished third, I thought the offer might come. Nobody would reject it and I did not have any doubts. I do not foresee any problems holding two jobs on a temporary basis. There is not even a 0.5% chance that we will suffer because of this.
UEFA.com: What are the pluses and minuses of being national team coach?
Kondratyev: I can name only one disadvantage: we have a very hard World Cup qualifying group, featuring Spain, France, Finland and Georgia. On the other hand, I can put to good use my knowledge of what the players can do. I know their capabilities and how to deal with them, since I have worked with the U21 team for three successive qualifying campaigns.
My players have not shown all of their quality yet. I am sure Belarus should have qualified for UEFA EURO 2012. I will try to energise the players and to inspire them to go through, maybe in the next campaign if we are not able to do it now. It is important that I will work with the national team for the next two [qualifying] campaigns because we need to think about the future as we have quite a lot of experienced players at the moment.
UEFA.com: Have the Football Federation of Belarus (BFF) set a goal for you?
Kondratyev: We want to get a positive result in every game, of course, but our [World Cup] group is so hard that we do not have a strict requirement.
If I said that, bearing in mind we play Spain and France, we need to be among two best teams in the group, you would call me a joker. Third place would be a decent result because Finland and Georgia are strong as well. We can cause the favourites a lot of trouble anyway.
UEFA.com: Belarus have never qualified for a major tournament, yet the U21s have been among the top eight teams in Europe during last eight years. How do you explain this?
Kondratyev: Young players are very motivated. They want to move abroad and find clubs in the top leagues, that is why they improve rapidly. They are disciplined and listen to the coaches attentively and do everything they say. Moreover, the Belarusian championship gives them the chance to play, which players of their age need to do.
UEFA.com: What will you change?
Kondratyev: We will keep the best of what was there during Bernd Stange's tenure. The defence played well, for example − we did not concede many goals. We need to work on the midfield and attack. We should be braver and more aggressive. If you just retain the ball you cannot win. You should seek to create chances up front. I certainly need to change the players' psyche so they can show everything they can do on the pitch.
UEFA.com: Every debutant sings a song before his first training session with the national team. Will you keep this arrangement adopted by Stange?
Kondratyev: There is no need to drop it if the players like it. Let them sing and be happy.
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