Belarus Defeats AFA In Olympics Warm-Up

The Belarus Olympic XI finished their preparations for London 2012 with a 10-1 win over the AFA's Representative XI on Sunday at Bedworth United.

On a lovely warm, sunny day in the Midlands, Belarus ran in 10 goals against the AFA.

1-0 down in the 3rd minute, it became 2-0 after 8 minutes and 3-0 after 15, before the AFA dug in and came into the game, and for the next hour or so, it was a competitive game.

After around 30 minutes, Belarus were awarded an uncontroversial penalty by referee Rob Ellis (Army FA), who had an excellent game.  Amongst various other incidents, Dan Ashley's almost-wonder-save from the penalty was captured on video and this will be posted on the site at the end of Belarus's involvement in the London 2012 Olympic football tournament, as per the agreement with the Belarus Football Federation.

Five minutes later and Martin Brannigan scored what may prove to be a goal he will bore his grandchildren about.  Video will also be posted of this goal, which was a fine, right-footed volley from 12 yards after a corner.

Just before half-time, Belarus increased their lead to 5-1.

Changing their entire outfield squad at half-time, Belarus then attacked from the start of the second half, with fresh legs against a tiring AFA side.  It must be remembered that, over and above the fact the AFA were playing an international side which had come within a minute of beating eventual champions Spain in the European U-21 Championship semi-final in Denmark last year, Belarus are also trying to hit peak fitness for Thursday's opening Olympics match.  Whereas, from the AFA side, only the West Wickham contingent of the AFA team have had any pre-season training so far.

With around 10 minutes to go and the score at 7-1, the AFA had an attacking free-kick near the corner flag.  10 seconds later it was 8-1 with a terrific counter-attacking goal, of which video will again be posted at a later date.

Two more accurate Belarusian mis-hits led to a 10-1 final score, with keeper Dan Ashley bemoaning both the extra few beers on the beach the previous week and the first double-figure concession since his school days an ever-increasing number of years ago.  The last 2 goals were slightly mis-hit, but both went in off the post from inside the penalty area, and an international slight mis-hit is the virtual equivalent of a strong amateur shot.

There are lessons in the defeat to Belarus: Rob Laney knows that he needs to man up to play international football, Arren Sutcliffe knows that international strikers shoot a quarter of a second faster than non-international strikers, Dan Ashley knows that making a 2 yard save from an international hurts more than normal and all the players learned that the AFA would be well advised to arrange the next international friendly in October, rather than July.

With Belarus's opening Olympic match against New Zealand on Thursday 26th July in Coventry, there will now be 15 AFA players who will annoy their friends and relatives by, firstly, insisting on watching Belarus's matches, including their match against Brazil at Old Trafford, and their final group match against Egypt at Hampden Park and secondly, by relaying various tales of tackles made, shots blocked and even scoring a goal against them!

Congratulations to Bob Leeds and Pat Folan for preparing a side at quite short notice and with no physical preparation for this match.  It was always going to be a tough ask, but their charges performed well.

Many thanks to the party of Council members and friends who travelled up from London for this historic match, and thanks also to the assistant referees: Peter Georgiou, Steve Tate and Chris Bodell, who all seemed to relish the chance to officiate in such a prestigious game.

Many thanks also to our hosts, Bedworth United and their Chairman, Pete Randall, who made us all very welcome.  The scoreline was harsh.  Removing the first 15 minutes (where the AFA took time to settle) and last 15 (where fitness counted), the middle hour was a 4-1 win to Belarus.  This was probably a more accurate reflection of the match and the relative abilities and hopefully leaves the AFA players each with some great memories.