Kazakhstan suffered a 4-0 defeat in Japan but FC Kairat Almaty had some success in the Commonwealth Cup during an otherwise quiet off-season month for the country's footballers.
Young and inexperienced
Kazakhstan head coach Sergey Timofeev fielded a young and inexperienced team against a strong Japanese side for the friendly international in Yokohama and Japan were never in any trouble in the rain-lashed match. Keidji Tamada scored twice, while Alessandro Dos Santos and Naoki Macuda added a goal each as Japan dominated from start to finish.
Kazakhstan created few chances. Their best came from a free-kick by Samat Smakov which went just over the bar while debutant Yegor Azovskiy missed a decent opportunity from close range. "The result is a bad one, however the main goal was to test our skills against strong opposition. Despite the defeat, I'm happy about my team's fighting spirit," said Timofeev. Kazakhstan's next serious action is against Denmark in Copenhagen on 26 March in FIFA World Cup qualifying Group 2.
Although the visit to Japan gave no cause for celebration, Kairat became the first Kazakhstan side since 1997 to enjoy any success in the Commonwealth Cup tournament for champion clubs of the former Soviet republics.
Indeed, Kairat became the first Kazakh club to progress beyond the group stage with a 4-0 win against Estonian champions FC Levadia Tallinn and a 3-1 victory over the Russia Under-21 squad. Despite also losing 2-1 to Belarus's FC Dinamo Minsk, Kairat qualified for the play-offs on goal difference.
Their involvement ended in the next round after losing on penalties following a 0-0 draw against Lithuanian champions FBK Kaunas, but Kairat coach Vladimir Gulamhaydarov was a happy man overall. "Our goal was not only to win the group but also to finally end the losing streak of Kazakh clubs against the Russian Under-21 team. Honour is very important, that's why I'm really satisfied with the 3-1 result," he said.
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