Soccer Recovery: Spirited Armenia Back in Contention


 

By Suren Musayelyan

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (ArmeniaNow) — Hundreds of Danes gave Armenia a standing ovation as the visitors completed their incredible 4-0 thrashing of the home team last week.

The 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifier became a moment of truth for Vardan Minasyan and his underperforming tendency that suffered four straight defeats, including the latest one at home against the underdog Malta last Friday, in the ongoing campaign.

Such results renewed calls for Minasyan’s resignation, but the team coach made it clear he still had something to say with his players and would not step down on his own like he intended to do earlier this year following a 0-3 defeat from the visiting Czech Republic when, though, his resignation was not accepted by the Armenian Soccer Federation and its boss Ruben Hayrapetyan.

Before leaving for Denmark, Minasyan assumed full responsibility for the previous results and performance of the team, pledging that he would do everything to rewind the team spirit and put Armenia back into a winning mode. And the Havakakan did not fail to deliver.

A few changes in the lineup on the night in Copenhagen’s Parken arena may also have done the trick transforming Armenia beyond recognition and bringing back the memories of similar spirited play in the previous Euro-2012 qualifying campaign.

An early goal from Spartak Moscow striker Yura Movsisyan, scored inside 30 seconds, shocked the Danish home crowd that watched Aras Ozbiliz doubling it for Armenia 19 minutes later.

Bookmaker favorite Denmark had their chances near Roman Berezovsky’s goal but the veteran Armenian keeper was solid between the sticks throughout the match.

Movsisyan scored his second and team’s third in the 59th minute before Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan sealed the score line at 4-0 for Armenia in the 82nd minute, scoring an 11th goal on his 39th appearance for the national side and thus matching the record of Artur Petrosyan, who won 69 national team caps between 1992 and 2004.

The Copenhagen victory put Armenia back in contention in the six-nation qualifying Group B where, with six points earned in as many games, the Havakakan are currently in fourth place — three points behind the third-placed Czech Republic and four and eight points behind the second- and first-placed Bulgaria and Italy, respectively.

In the remaining four matches Armenia will first travel to Prague to play against the Czechs on September 6 before hosting Denmark in Yerevan on September 10. On October 11, Armenia will host Bulgaria before traveling for their last qualifier against Italy four days later.