Kazakhstan host Denmark for their second European Championship qualifier of the week on Sunday afternoon.
Magomed Adiev’s eastern European side opened their campaign with a 2-1 defeat to Slovenia, while Denmark lead the group at this embryonic stage of the qualification process after easing to a 3-1 win over Finland on Thursday.
Maksim Samorodov gave Kazakhstan a first-half lead against Slovenia on the artificial playing surface of the country’s national stadium, crashing the ball off the underside of the crossbar with a close-range header that marked his first senior international goal.
However, their in-form visitors rallied after the break, equalising through half-time substitute David Brekalo before Zan Vipotnik came off the bench himself to calmly guide a volley beyond Igor Shatskiy, silencing a packed Astana Arena.
Slovenia became the first team to defeat Kazakhstan in Astana since a Teemu Pukki brace inspired Finland – another upcoming opponent in this year’s qualifiers – to victory in the capital 17 months ago.
Adiev’s side have largely been on an upward trajectory since the Russian coach took over last April, topping a Nations League group containing Azerbaijan, Slovakia and Belarus to secure passage into the second tier of the competition, where they could meet the likes of Wales or England.
After such a disappointing World Cup, Denmark kicked off qualification for Euro 2024 in the best way possible, but the 3-1 win over Finland at Parken Stadium in midweek was anything but routine.
Atalanta’s jet-heeled forward Rasmus Hojlund scored a hat-trick for the Danes, but his side were level at 1-1 going into the final 10 minutes as Oliver Antman capitalised upon one simple long ball after the break to cancel out Hojlund’s first-half opener; however, the 20-year-old Copenhagen-born striker put his earlier misses behind him to find the net twice more and earn Denmark three crucial points.
The Danes may have failed to win a game at the World Cup – or even take the lead – but Kasper Hjulmand has crafted his side into a formidable qualification outfit; Denmark won nine of their 10 World Cup qualifiers, conceding just three goals, and they did not lose a single match while qualifying for Euro 2020.
If Denmark can navigate their way through their latest qualification group, they will reach a fourth consecutive major tournament for just the second time in the history of the men’s national team.
Kazakhstan are far less experienced – the national team did not play their first match until June 1992, the same month that Denmark won the European Championships – and are yet to qualify for a major tournament in their modern guise.
Kazakhstan Euro Champ Qualifying form:
Kazakhstan form (all competitions):
Denmark Euro Champ Qualifying form:
Denmark form (all competitions):
We say: Kazakhstan 1-2 Denmark
All four previous matches between these nations have ended in the same outcome; victory for Denmark – with Kazakhstan sitting 98 places below their imminent visitors, there is not a great deal of evidence to suggest their losing streak in this fixture will come to an end on Sunday.