In the FIFA Futsal World Cup qualification playoffs first leg, their first official game as the UEFA Futsal EURO 2016 bronze medals winners, Kazakhstan drew 1-1 against Poland in Szczecin.
A few were suprised when the visitors took the early lead as the EURO 2016 joint top scorer Serik Zhamankulov clinically finished with less than four minutes played.
But it was the last significant achievement for Kazakhstan in the match, with Poland holding their nerve to find their footing and come back into it.
Earlier, there have been doubts that Kazakhstan could romp past their opposition with ease like they did against Bosnia and Herzegovina during the EURO preliminaries. "On one hand, Poland have not participated at the EURO. On the other hand, you shouldn't forget they demolished Romania 8-1 in the World Cup qualifying group stage, and it was Romania who beat Kazakhstan in the EURO qualifying campaign last year," said Kazakhstan Professional Football League president Olzhas Abrayev after the playoffs draw in February. "So it is wrong to think that the World Cup progression is already in our pockets. There are tough games to play against motivated opponents who also want to win, ahead of our team."
Biało-czerwoni, being well aware of the tactics Kazakhstan prefer to use, pressed high up the pitch to nullify attacking plans masterminded by manager Cacau.
As for the visiting side, they looked bleak, especially in comparison with their recent performances at the EURO 2016 in Belgrade. And eventually, Kazakhstan let their win slip as the Polish team created several good chances before Marcin Mikołajewicz struck a well-deserved equaliser with 27 seconds remaining.
"I am delighted with the result. We weren't favourites but my players managed to match the high level of the challenge," noted Poland head coach Andrzej Bianga, per Polsat Sport (h/t PZPN.pl). "The result, however, settled nothing, it was a dramatic one and we came from behind at the death of it."
The return game will be held at the Baluan Sholak Sports Palace in Almaty on April 12. The aggregate winners of the tie will join the World Cup final tournament which is to take place in Colombia in September/October, 2016.
2016 FIFA Futsal World Cup Qualification Playoffs, 1st leg
Poland v Kazakhstan 1-1 (0-1)
22/03/2016, Azoty Arena (Szczecin). Ref: Kamil Çetin (TUR), Ozan Soykan (TUR).
POL: Krzyśka, Nawrat – Kubik, Zastawnik, Mikołajewicz, Kriezel, Krawczyk, Pater, Wojciechowski, Mizgajski, Solecki, Lutecki, Marek, Gładczak. HC: Andrzej Bianga.
KAZ: Higuita, Shamro – Zhamankulov, Leo, Dovgan, Nurgozhin, Douglas Jr., Knaub, Grebonos, Pengrin, Suleimenov, Pershin, Mun, Taku. HC: Cacau (BRA).
Goals: 0-1 Zhamankulov (4), 1-1 Mikołajewicz (40).
YC: Nurgozhin (20), Kriezel (31).