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Baga and Belarus aim to lay ghost of 2004

Belarus won their first game at the 2004 Under-21 finals but failed to make the last four, and Dmitri Baga is out to ensure history does not repeat itself in Denmark this time round.

Dmitri Baga (left) got on the scoresheet against Denmark
Dmitri Baga (left) got on the scoresheet against Denmark ©Getty Images

Battling injuries and suspensions, and coming off the back of a 2-1 loss to Denmark, Belarus are determined to overcome their problems and avoid the fate that befell their 2004 vintage.

Georgi Kondratyev's side had opened their Group A campaign with a 2-0 victory against Iceland, and then took the lead against Denmark via a beautifully worked goal from Dmitri Baga. The tournament hosts hit back almost immediately, though, and went on to win the game in the second half. Baga said: "It's obvious we could be feeling a little better about things. If we had beaten Denmark, we could be qualified now."

The right-midfielder emphasised, however, that Tuesday's defeat by the hosts had to be forgotten, and that there was still a healthy chance of progress. "We shouldn't focus on the negative points," he added. "We just need to go on with all the preparations, because we still have a real chance."

The first time Belarus qualified for the finals in 2004, they won their opening match against Italy, but failed to make the last four. The prospect of history repeating itself is not one Baga is entertaining. "After they beat Italy they got a draw against Croatia and lost to Serbia, but we can't dwell on these things. They had their own fate, we have ours. We'll see how it'll end."

Baga insisted "everything will be fine" against Switzerland if his side "focus on the positives", but did acknowledge they would be facing opponents with a formidable record so far in Group A – two wins, and no goals conceded. "We watched their matches, they look very solid and powerful," the FC BATE Borisov man said. "Switzerland are a dangerous team with a standout player in Xherdan Shaqiri, but we'll prepare and motivate ourselves to play for the victory. We've got nothing to lose."

Belarus will be without Sergei Politevich and Nikita Bukatkin through suspension for their decider, but Baga says there are able replacements available. "There's not much you can do about it. There are no irreplaceable players in football. If you made it into the 23-man squad for the tournament it means you a member of the national team. It means you're worth it and earned your right to feature at the European championship. I think it'll be OK."

Kondratyev's squad have also been hit by injuries, with the likes of Mikhail Gordeychuk and Pavel Nekhaychik consigned to the sidelines so far. They may recover in time for the vital contest, and Baga would welcome their return. "Obviously they're bursting to get into the action. The U21 championship normally happens just once in your life and and everyone wants to take part in it."