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Belarus repay Kondratyev's faith

Coach Georgi Kondratyev has revealed that he brought champagne with him to Belarus's play-off decider with Italy, so certain was he that his side would overturn their 2-0 first-leg deficit.

Belarus coach Georgi Kondratyev
Belarus coach Georgi Kondratyev ©Pressball

While many had written off Belarus's chances after losing the first leg of their 2011 UEFA European Under-21 Championship play-off 2-0 to five-time champions Italy, coach Georgi Kondratyev was so confident his side would prevail that he brought a bottle of champagne with him to the match.

Not even he, though, could have envisaged Belarus's fantastic start to the evening as two goals from Vladimir Yurchenko in the opening five minutes wiped out the Azzurrini's advantage, before Oleg Veretilo completed the comeback with the winning goal six minutes into extra time.

"I am full of pride for my players, my country and my team," Kondratyev said, still buzzing after the victory. "We have pulled off a real feat. Few believed we would be able to beat an opponent like this 3-0, but I did. To be honest, before the match I put a bottle of champagne in my bag. I don't want to speak about tactics, personalities or methods now; I am so full of energy and emotion."

Belarus are one of only three sides, along with England and Spain, that reached the 2009 finals to also qualify for the 2011 edition and two-goal hero Yurchenko was as emotional as his coach. "I can't explain what I feel," he said. "We wanted to win for everyone and for our coach, and luck was on our side. The beginning of the match was like a dream. I cannot explain that, scoring two goals in just two minutes. We were lucky today as we scored three goals from just three chances. But Italy were also lucky at home."

Even after Veretilo had found the net, a goal would have been enough to put Italy through on the away-goals rule and Yurchenko added: "After we scored our third goal time was going very slowly. It was tiring just watching the scoreboard."

Veretilo, who contributed the deciding goal, explained: "There were lots of emotions [in the dressing room after the match], and we celebrated and drank a little champagne. As time goes by we will appreciate even more what we have done and the pleasure will be greater. This match is definitely the most important in my life."