Belarus coach expects another tough test against Northern Ireland

Belarus' Igor Shitov, bottom, and Netherlands' Georginio Wijnaldum challenge for the ball during their Euro 2020 group C qualifying match on Thursday night
Belarus' Igor Shitov, bottom, and Netherlands' Georginio Wijnaldum challenge for the ball during their Euro 2020 group C qualifying match on Thursday night

Belarus coach Igor Kruishenko is braced for a 'tough' night out in Belfast on Sunday when his side face Northern Ireland in a Euro 2020 qualifier at Windsor Park.

The visitors go into the match on the back of a 4-0 hiding from Holland in Rotterdam on Thursday and must quickly bounce back if they are to take anything from this opening week of the campaign.

"We analysed the previous match statistically and in terms of our physical condition we didn't do too badly," Kruishenko said through a translator.

"Of course it was a heavy defeat and a daunting result for us but we are getting ready for the next game."

While Belarus were being beaten, Northern Ireland enjoyed a 2-0 victory over Estonia - their first competitive win in 18 months.

"I don't really expect that Northern Ireland will seriously change their tactics or style," Kruishenko added. "We expect them to use quick wingers and to put pressure on in the centre of midfield.

"It will be a tough, aggressive game."

Belarus, who include now 37-year-old former Arsenal and Barcelona midfielder Alexander Hleb in an experienced squad, are ranked 78th in the world by FIFA.

That leaves them some 42 places below Northern Ireland but Kruishenko believes they have improved in his two years in charge, as shown by their UEFA Nations League campaign in which they earned promotion from League D - and with it a guaranteed play-off should they not qualify for next summer.

"In my two years the team has become more confident," he said. "We changed the style of play, we started to pass the ball more than we used to before but there are a lot of factors.

"Our success also depends on the clubs and the players, how they're doing with their clubs. I would be happy if there were new talented players coming from the clubs which is always an asset for the national team."