Kazakhstan hold a 2-1 advantage going into the second leg of their Nations League C relegation playoff against Moldova.
The Hawks came from behind in the first leg in Chisinau, as Sergei Maliy’s header and an own goal from Veaceslav Posmac cancelled out Ion Nicolaescu’s opener.
Both countries were promoted from Nations League D in 2019 and now find themselves battling to avoid re-joining Europe’s minnows.
Thursday’s first leg was a first game in charge for Kazakhstan interim manager Andrei Karpovich, who is a former captain of the national team and his country’s fifth-most capped player of all time.
Karpovich replaced Talgat Baysufinov, who only lasted little over a year at the helm after succeeding Michal Bilek who departed after Kazakhstan finished bottom of Group 4 in Nations League C with one win from six games.
Their only victory in the group came in the opening fixture against Lithuania in September 2020 and they then went without a competitive win until the first leg of this tie.
Kazakhstan, who are ranked 120th in the world, finished bottom of their World Cup qualifying group, drawing twice with Euro 2020 quarter-finalists Ukraine but also losing 8-0 away in France.
The transcontinental nation last won a competitive home fixture in June 2019, when San Marino were the visitors to Nur-Sultan.
Moldova are the fourth-lowest ranked country in Europe in 181st and are currently on a run of 10 successive defeats
They have not won a competitive game since June 2019 and in fact have not beaten a side other than San Marino or Andorra in a competitive fixture since triumphing over Montenegro in 2013.
Like his opposite number, manager Serghei Clescenco is a former international and his country’s fifth-most capped player. He is also Moldova’s all-time top scorer with 11 goals. Clescenco’s son Nicky has three caps but is not in the squad for this tie.
The 49-year-old was appointed in December, succeeding Roberto Bordin who had replaced Engin Firat less than a year earlier. Firat was the man who oversaw Moldova’s unsuccessful Nations League C campaign as they picked up just one point from six matches.
Moldova were also on the wrong end of an 8-0 thrashing in World Cup qualifying last year as they were trounced by Denmark on the way to finishing bottom of their group with only one point from 10 games.
Kazakhstan Nations League form:
Kazakhstan form (all competitions):
Moldova Nations League form:
Moldova form (all competitions):
We say: Kazakhstan 1-0 Moldova
With Kazakhstan holding home advantage and the lead from the first leg, it would be a big surprise to see Moldova mount a comeback given that they have lost their last 10 matches. Kazakhstan should set up to defend their lead but may also nick another goal.