In preparation for their upcoming 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign, the Armenian National Football Team took on Belarus, in a friendly match, on Wednesday, August 15th, in front of their home supporters, at Republic Stadium, in Yerevan Armenia.
The first half started out slow with Armenia dominating the play. In the first 10 minutes, Armenia controlled the ball and went directly at Belarus with quick defense to offense transition.
It was clear that the Armenian starting eleven, after a year of playing together, relatively unchanged, understood how to bring the best of, not only themselves, but each other.
Armenian defender Artak Yedigaryan did the job of shutting down the Belarusian strikers and quickly played the ball to the midfield, who in turn got the ball further up the pitch, allowing for an onslaught of shots on the Belarusian goal by strikers Yura Movsisyan and Marcos Pizzelli, and by midfielders, Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Vice-Captain) and Gevorg Ghazaryan.
The best chances for Armenian to open the scoring came from Ghazaryan, but each time he got close to goal, he either got stopped by a defender before attempting a shot, shot the ball up and over the net or just missed the net completely.
Belarus gave Armenian more opportunities to score by fouling, resulting in Armenian free-kicks, but even then, Movsisyan, Pizzelli, Mkhitaryan and Ghazaryan launched the ball with power over accuracy, over the net.
With all of the blundered chances, Belarus took advantage, and in the 44th minute, an innocent pass through the Armenian midfield found striker Renan Bressan who took the ball in stride and shot the ball in-between the Armenian defense, behind goalkeeper Roman Berzovski and into the net, 1-0 Belarus heading into the half.
However, though the Armenians were down, the came out on fire in the second, picking up where they left off in the opening 10 minutes of the first.
Mkhitaryan, Pizzelli, Movsisyan and Ghazaryan tried to get Armenia on the board, but Belarus tighten up their defense and wouldn’t allow Armenian a clean shot.
Each shot attempted sailed over the net or into the feet of the defenders.
To make things worse, Bressan, on an identical play to his first goal, took the ball from a pass through the midfield, ran straight to goal, and shot the ball through Berzovski, 2-0.
With time winding down, the Armenians continued to press, and in the 71st minute, Armenian National team newcomer, Aras Özbiliz, shot the ball from 15-yards out straight to goal-with the Belarusian goalkeeper failing to control the rebound, Movsisyan pounced and centered the ball across to a waiting Pizzelli to just tap it into the gapping net. On the way to Pizzelli, the ball deflected off of the Belarusian defender Dmitri Verkhovtsov and into the net for an own goal.
Though not credited as an Armenia goal, it was still a goal for Armenia-2-1 with less than 20 minutes left.
The goal gave Armenian hope, but it was too little too late-Armenian loses 2-1.
Though a loss to Belarus, the 76th best team in the world. A team that is 20 places below Armenian in the world ranking (Armenian is ranked 56th in the world), remember it is just a friendly.
Changes must be made before Armenia’s first World Cup qualifying group B group game, September 7th, against Malta, but, this game will show them what those changes need to be and they will be ready to fight for a place in the World Cup against the likes of Italy, Denmark, Czech Republic, Bulgaria and the aforementioned Malta.
With the way Armenia played in the 2012 European Cup qualifying, they should have little difficult securing one of the top two places in the group to either qualify outright of the World Cup, or get into a playoff for a place in the World Cup.
Besides the game itself, one scary moment came in the 60th minutes when Belarusian defender, Maksim Bardachow slide skies up into the shins of Armenian forward Gevorg Ghazaryan who hobbled to the sideline and was immediately substituted.
His availability for the September 7th game is questionable.