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Belarus On The Back Foot

23 July 2010

Sergei Varivode has admitted his Belarus team face an uphill battle to gain promotion to Division A from U18 European Championship Division B.

Funding problems meant that Varivode's planned preparations for the current campaign were compromised and the coach knows that will have an impact as the tournament progresses.

"From what was originally planned, we were only able to complete about 80%," Varivode said.

"The team is not in top form, as we were hurt by the loss of the initial phase of training.

"We planned to get together for physical training on June 14, but the money was not found.

Instead, we could only get together the players from Minsk and around that region who could do it from home.

"As a result, we are unlikely to achieve our best possible position.

"We have done all we could in the time we had."

The team did manage to fit in two useful games against Lithuania, which the coach described as "instructive".

"They provided much food for thought," he said.

However, they were also costly, as Vitaly Lyutych suffered an ankle injury that could keep him out, which Yevgeny Sugonyako suffered a bruised knee from which he has now recovered.

Belarus will face Denmark, England, Romania and Israel in the group stages, and Varivode is wary of all four, not least Israel and England.

"A clear favourite of the five is Israel," he said.

On England, he added: "They have not shown their best this season, but we saw two years ago the level of their players.

"Denmark and Romania are slightly weaker than Israel and England.

Under normal circumstances we should beat them. But the team did not fulfil all the planned training so we do not rule out any surprises."

However, Varivode is still targeting the final eight.

"That is the initial target," he said. "Then, after that, a lot depends on our rivals."

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