OPPOSITION HISTORY FEATURE
OPPOSITION HISTORY FEATURE
Over the course of the next 49 years, Stange would take charge of clubs in Ukraine, Australia, Germany and Cyprus, while also spending periods as the national team manager of East Germany, Oman, Iraq, Belarus, Singapore and Syria. Now 73, the former semi-professional defender retired in 2019 having won just one of his seven games as manager of the Syrian national team.
But it was during his time as manager of Belarus between 2007 and 2011 that Stange enjoyed a notable period of relative success, and they produced their best performances during both the UEFA EURO 2008 and 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaigns. Although both campaigns eventually ended in disappointment for a national team who are yet to reach the finals of a major tournament, Stange instilled a winning mentality within the group which showed that channelling their talents in the right way with the right belief can deliver the right results.
Having struggled under Stange's predecessor Yuri Puntus, the German was appointed as the manager of Belarus in July 2007 having left Cypriot side Apollon Limassol and he made an immediate impression by making significant changes to the squad as he promoted younger players from the domestic game at the expense of more established names. It would prove to be a successful approach for Stange as Belarus would claim their highest-ever place in the FIFA world rankings as they reached 36th position under his guidance in February 2011.
Belarus would claim four wins and a draw during the EURO 2008 qualifying campaign, scoring 17 goals in the process, but the side still finished well behind group winners Romania, the Netherlands and Bulgaria in the final standings. However, the results and performances provided a platform for the next qualifying campaign, and another four victories and a draw from their 10 group games followed as the side established their growing status in the European game by scoring five past Kazakhstan and Andorra. England and Ukraine would qualify for the 2010 World Cup finals, while Belarus would finish below Croatia.
“I couldn't care less about that,” explained Stange in 2008 when asked about the political situation in Belarus at the time. “I’m the national manager of a country with a huge football tradition and that’s all that counts. My working conditions are as good as anything that I’ve experienced in my long football career. Criminality doesn’t exist here. In Jena I have to fetch my wife from the cinema in the evenings. But here girls can walk in the park at night.”
A famous 1-0 win over France in Paris would mark a significant moment for Belarus in EURO 2012 qualifying in September 2010, and this was followed by two impressive draws against Romania and France in the return match in Minsk the following June. These results were testament to the long-term programme that Stange had implemented during his time with the Belarusian national team, but the side could not capitalise against the smaller nations, dropping points against Luxembourg and Albania to once again miss out on qualification. Stange stepped down from his position following the campaign.