Barys Pukhouski scored 11 goals and his three teenage teammates combined for 12 as Belarus beat FYR Macedonia 30:29 to clinch 11th position at the EHF EURO 2016, despite missing four of their most experienced players.
While Belarus recorded their best finish at the European championship since the premiere edition in 1994, when they ranked eighth, the Macedonians failed to repeat their tenth-place finish at Denmark 2014.
Pukhouski, who was awarded as the best player of the match, chipped in 11 out of his 16 shots and received vital support from three 19-year-old youngsters – Andrei Yurynok (five goals), Uladzislau Kulesh (five goals) and Artsiom Karalek (two goals). Kiril Lazarov led Macedonia in his 120th cap with 10 goals to finish the match just 23 goals shy of the 1000-goal milestone for the national team.
"It is important for me that we won two points. It was amazing. We once again sprang a surprise. There were many injuries in our team and many young players played," said Pukhouski.
"They really wanted to win and fought until the last minutes. We go home happy."
In the first half it seemed the pre-game resolution of the Macedonians to record their first win in Poland was left behind in the dressing room as Ivica Obrvan's men showed far too little determination and focus at both ends of the court.
Obrvan's counterpart Iouri Chevtsov was forced to field three teenagers in the starting line-up after Ivan Brouka, Maxim Babichev and Siarhei Shylovich joined their injured captain Siarhei Rutenka on the list of missing players – all due to high temperatures.
With the exception of a short spell midway through the first half his young team, with an average age of 22.7 years, were in the driving seat. At half-time Belarus led 14:13, and just seven minutes into the second half had increased that advantage to six goals (20:14).
"It's the last game and we tried to play with all we've got but we are so tired that we don't have any more emotions. We pushed but it wasn't enough," said the Macedonian goalkeeper Borko Ristovski after the game.
Belarus’ dominance prompted Obrvan to use his second time-out of the game, and his players returned to the game with full force. Five minutes before the final whistle FYR Macedonia levelled the score at 27:27, but failed to break Belarus’ resistance in the final minutes.