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The 5-1 defeat by Sweden in their opening Group A match was a bitter pill to swallow for Belarus but midfielder Sergei Kislyak maintains they still have their destiny in their own hands in this UEFA European Under-21 Championship.
Ray of light
The FC Dinamo Minsk player provided the one ray of light for Belarus's watching supporters on Tuesday with the tremendous effort that gave the eastern Europeans a short-lived first-half lead. Speaking on the eve of the meeting with Serbia in Malmo, he retained an optimistic outlook. "We have the chance to qualify from the group stage," he said. "We have to win both remaining matches. We have forgotten about our opening defeat and taken the proper conclusions after analysing our mistakes. We want to go out on to the pitch now and get a result. Everything is still in our hands."
Need for vigilance
Kislyak, 22, remembered his side's positive showing against Serbia in the qualifying round for these finals – besides holding their opponents at home, they also performed creditably in a 3-1 loss in Belgrade. "I came on after an hour in Belgrade. We started very well. Leonid Kovel missed two great opportunities and then they punished us from a free kick. The two other goals were the result of our own mistakes, but we could easily have got a different result." To achieve a different result in Malmo, Kislyak said they would have to cut out the "big mistakes" made against Sweden, yet acknowledged Serbia would provide tough opposition. "Serbia's tactics differ from the ones used by Sweden. The Serbs have a wider range of individual talents, particularly in attack, and we will have to watch them closely."
Head coach Yuri Kurnenin's return to the bench after suspension could be a positive factor according to Kislyak. "Yuri Anatolievich's [Kurnenin] presence on the bench is extremely important" said the defensive midfielder, a national champion with Dinamo Minsk in 2004. "We are a unified group and have to be together," he added. "We can only blame ourselves for the opening defeat. We were told to play in one way, but did it in another. We have to follow closely our coach's instructions this time.
"We need to play strictly in defence, keep ourselves fully focused until the final whistle, play more compactly, cover each other, not to allow our opponents to create any single opportunity and then of course, convert our own chances," continued Kislyak. He finished with a word for his colleague in the Belarus central midfield, Aleksandr Volodko, who turned 23 on Thursday, wishing the FC BATE Borisov player "many football achievements and famous victories". A victory over Serbia would fit the bill perfectly.
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