Futsal EURO 2016 Preview: Kazakhstan futsal national team are ready to make their European Championship debut as the 2016 edition kicks off in Belgrade, Serbia.
“We cannot wait to compete among the European elite,” said AFC Kairat Almaty and Kazakhstan head coach Cacau (per UEFA.com) ahead of the start of the EURO 2016, the first-ever final round of major European tournament Kazakhstan futsal national team set to enter. Let’s recall the way Cacau’s men have made to reach that milestone.
A stunning comeback in Romania
As a high-ranked team, Kazakhstan started their qualifying campaign in main round, having entered the group which also included Portugal, Romania and Georgia.
With EURO 2014 semi-finalists Portugal being strong favourites to top the section and Georgia ranked as obvious underdogs, it was group hosts Romania who looked like Kazakhstan’s big rivals to claim the runners-up finish to advance into playoffs, while the group winners were supposed to progress to the finals directly.
Cacau’s outfit failed against Romania, losing 6-4 in an opening game to take a painful blow to their chances of qualifying. The strikes from Mikhail Pershin, Dauren Nurgozhin, Chingiz Yesenamanov and Nikolay Pengrin weren’t enough to cancel out a robust Romanian side who made the difference in the dying stages of the match.
However, Kazakhstan could hold themselves and turned their fortunes around in a remarkable way by beating Portugal 3-1 in a thrilling encounter. Following Portuguese early opener, Kazakhstan frustrated Selecção das Quinas with an emphatic comeback. Pengrin found an equaliser before Pershin and goalscoring glovesman Higuita netted crucial screamers in the final five minutes.
Afterwards, Pershin, Pengrin, Konstantin Chebotarev and Yesenamanov all were on target in a 4-0 triumph over Georgia, sealing the playoffs berth. For the first time in history, Kazakhstan national futsal team avoided elimination after qualifying group phase.
Cruising through playoffs
Six months later, Kazakhstan extended their good run of form in the playoffs, developing their success against Bosnia and Herzegovina. Cacau’s men proved too strong for the Dragons, seeing them off in a very convincing manner.
In the first leg in Zenica, Kazakhstan outclassed hosts with a five-star performance as goals from Nurgozhin, Serik Zhamankulov, Douglas (with a brace at his name) and Leo reflected in a 5-0 scoreline.
The return game in Almaty saw Kazakhstan team continue to dominate, with Leo, Douglas, Pavel Taku and Chingiz Yesenamanov firing them to a 4-0 victory, 9-0 on aggregate. At last, Kazakhstan, after five failed attempts to clinch their spot at EURO finals, qualified into the major continental futsal competition.
“It is a great achievement for the whole country – finally we have made it,” reacted Cacau.
The Brazilian, well-known in Kazakhstan as former Kairat player who has guided Almaty club to two UEFA Futsal Cup titles in three seasons, admitted that it was his Kairat background that helped to produce that superb feat.
“We have eight players from Kairat in the national team so I see these boys almost every day, which for me is very important,” he said.
It is worth noting that the current squad list from Cacau consists of two clubs men – Kairat (8) and Astana Tulpar (5) with only one slot awarded to another Kazakhstan side’s representative, Inzhu Aktobe’s goalkeeper Grigory Shamro.
What to expect in Belgrade?
In the final tournament, Cacau’s debutants will face Russia and Croatia as they entered a three-team group. Kazakhstan need to grab one of the two first places in the group standings if they want to continue their fairytale in advancing into quarterfinals where they might play Italy, Czech Republic or Azerbaijan.
“We are in a very unpredictable group,” Cacau mused. “We know Russia are always at the top end in Europe, their level of play is really high. Croatia are also experienced and regular participants in major championships, so this is a big challenge for us. But for sure Russia are big favourites of our group.”
Tomorrow’s clash will see Kazakhstan compete with Russia, and two days later, the team have to play out a decider against Croatia, a strong side, although they don’t seem unbeatable. Cacau and his charges are positive ahead of the Kazakhstan’s maiden EURO appearance and even look further.
“I am confident we will be regular participants in EURO final tournaments from now on, so expect us to be back in two years, four years and beyond,” declared Brazilian manager.
“With the support of Ministry of Sport and the Government of Kazakhstan we have very good conditions to further progress futsal in our country.”
Kazakhstan Squad List for EURO 2016
1. Grigory Shamro (Inzhu Aktobe)
2. Higuita (Kairat)
3. Arnold Knaub (Astana Tulpar)
4. Alexandr Grebonos (Astana Tulpar)
5. Serik Zhamankulpv (Kairat)
6. Leo (Kairat)
7. Nikolay Pengrin (Astana Tulpar)
8. Dinmukhambet Suleimenov (Kairat)
9. Alexandr Dovgan (Astana Tupar)
10. Chingiz Yesenamanov (Kairat)
11. Mikhail Pershin (Kairat)
15. Pavel Taku (Astana Tulpar)
18. Dauren Nurgozhin (Kairat)
19. Douglas (Kairat)