Belarus keeper Mahaletski goes from zero to hero
Belarus beat El Salvador 5-4 on penalties on matchday 2
Their keeper Kanstantsin Mahaletski conceded two goals between his legs
He then emerged the hero of the penalty shoot-out
Belarus and El Salvador served up one of the most dramatic games of the first round of group fixtures at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Russia 2021™. Just ask Belarusian goalkeeper Kanstantsin Mahaletski, who ran the gamut of emotions.
Twice he was beaten by shots between his legs, the second of which allowed El Salvador to draw level at 5-5 and take the game to penalties. However, the team, under the stewardship of Spanish coach Nico Alvarado, kept on fighting. In the end, a penalty shoot-out was required, with Mahaletski once again playing a key role – only this time emerging as the hero after saving Jason Urbina’s spot-kick.
The goalkeeper himself remained modest, playing down his own role.
"How did I save that penalty? Honestly, it's a lottery. It was by chance. I didn't prepare for the kick in any particular way. That's just beach soccer: you either save it or you don't. I could have stopped the earlier ones, but I didn't. I was lucky one time, though," he told FIFA.com. "The main thing is that the boys all scored their penalties. I knew I’d be able to save at least one."
The 29-year-old nonetheless reproached himself for what happened prior to the shoot-out. "The goalkeeper was no help today," he responded when asked about what had gone wrong for Belarus early in the match. "Otherwise, we played well. The coach had thoroughly analysed their game for us and explained in detail what we needed to do. Basically, everything worked except for the final touch," he added.
Belarus aiming high
For Mahaletski and Belarus, Luzhniki is a happy place. It was here that, two years ago, his team qualified for the World Cup for the first time in their history.
"I love Luzhniki and this cool stadium. It was a bit smaller in 2019, but it's brilliant to play here. You go out to train and you get a real buzz. The whole team came to watch Russia play USA and the atmosphere was great."
At the last Beach Soccer World Cup in Paraguay in 2019, the Belarussians failed to make it out of the group. Since then, though, they have gained experience and intend not only to make the knockout phase, but to cause a stir there too.
"Our aim is to win every match. We're going to try our very best. We hope that our team will gain more and more fans with each match. We're expecting to see even more fans at our other group games as well as in the quarter-final, semi-final and final, when we get there," Mahaletski concluded with a wink.
If his good luck continues, though, who knows how far Belarus can go?