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Arsenal 19:45 Reading

Ex-Belarus captain blasts Hleb

By Phil Jackson.   Last Updated: 01/11/06 5:10pm

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Arsenal midfielder Alexander Hleb has defended himself in the wake of an extraordinary attack from his former international captain.

Belarus captain Sergei Gurenko retired after the team's 4-2 win over Slovenia in the Euro 2008 qualifier in October.

Since bowing out of the international set-up the Lokomotiv Moscow defender has caused a huge furore with his criticism of Alexander and his brother Viatcheslav for their conduct with the national team.

"For the Slovenia match for example, the whole team boarded a bus while the Hleb brothers were driven in a private car," Gurenko raged.

"We must understand this is the national team, not the team made up of Hleb brothers and the rest of the squad should not play second fiddle to them.

"But in reality, when we win it's always the Hlebs' victory but when we lose it's the team's fault.

"When he [Alexander] plays for the national team he doesn't work hard, never tackles the opposition. He wants the whole team to just play around him."

Thirty four-year-old Gurenko also justified his comments with a foreboding prediction for the future if nothing is done about the current situation.

"If we don't change the atmosphere around the national team now, it would become unmanageable in the next 10 years," he added.

But talented Gunners man Alexander has reacted with dismay at the comments, totally rejecting any suggestion that he is a prima donna.

"It was very strange to say the least to hear such words from someone whom I've played with," he explained.

"Yes Gurenko is a former captain of the national team but no one gave him the right to say such things.

"He had quit the national team, then decided to come back and retire again for good. Now, he throws dirt at all the other players and the coach.

"If he feels that way it would have been better for him not to come back at all."

It is sure to be an interesting meeting when Belarus team up again for their next Euro 2008 qualifier in Group G when they face Luxembourg in March.


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