BELARUS – AZERBAIJAN
January 20th, 2017; Saint Petersburg, St. Petersburg Sports and Concert Complex, 300 spectators
Best players: Svirepa, Ibrahimov
Raman Kirenkin, Head coach of team Belarus:
– It is very bitter to lose conceding a goal during the last minute of additional time – that’s just a lack of concentration. As for the penalty shootout, we have won one before, but this time we lost. The guys followed the game plan and did what was explained, showed and trained at coaching sessions. Azerbaijan is a very good team. I guess lots of people enjoyed their play during the tournament. Preparing for the match we focused our attention on the fact that they possess the ball 70 percent of the time, and, moreover, they do it in their opponent’s pitch half. They have enormously more shots than others: they were shooting approximately 30 times during the match! If we rely on my assistants’ statistics we had more chances today. So it means that we played right. I want to thank my guys for their attitude and fulfillment of my requirements. We are going to move on, play in qualification games and friendly matches.
– Belarus has met Azerbaijan in the play-offs for the fifth year in a row. Can it be said that the level of youth football in both countries is the same?
– From my point of view, we need to talk about different styles firstly. Players from southern countries are very technical, clever and fast. It is very pleasant to meet teams like this, and we are trying to be like them. It would be better to compare levels in the middle of the season, because many teams came to the tournament right after vacation and were very tired by the end of it. We played, we gained experience, and we’ll move on.
– Is the timing of the Granatkin Memorial suitable for you?
– The timing is fine, as Saint Petersburg is a very beautiful city, especially when it is decorated for the New Year’s Eve. As I know, lots of players were not let to play for Russia, so what can be said for February or March? If we assign the objective to win the Granatkin Memorial, then we should all gather three weeks before and prepare. But our mission is to gain more information about players – who progressed and who did not. Friendly matches do not give a broad picture, the players are more relaxed during them. But the tournament forces them to compete for prizes, and the character and skills are shown.
Tabriz Hasanov, Head coach of team Azerbaijan:
– The match was very tough for us. Six games in a twelve-day period can be very hard to play, so we were fatigued today, especially from psychological point of view, not from the physical. Belarus is a strong rival. We knew that it would be difficult to play against them. They counterattacked and played using five defenders today, as they did it against Russia, so it was challenging to move forward. We were lucky to get a tie in the end. Penalties are a lottery. This was not our best game as we made a lot of mistakes. But still I thank my boys.
– Can you compare the level of youth football in Azerbaijan and Belarus?
– Belarus and Azerbaijan are friendly countries, and tournaments like this only make this friendship tighter. As for statistics, I remember that last year we played against each other for the 7th place, and we lost 1:2.
– Is it needed to hold the Granatkin Memorial in February or March?
– The clubs are on vacation now, so they can let players participate here. As for the hot part of the season players can be playing for the second team or even for the first team, so it will be harder to put a squad together. This year the tournament was much like the mini-European Championship because 16 teams participated here. My boys showed their best in all six matches, trying to play attacking football. Something was great, something was a bit worse. The pressure and the competitive spirit were very high, and you cannot face this during friendly matches.