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24 Years of Modest Achievements

24 Years of Modest Achievements
FC Aktobe's two silver finishes remain best outcome Kazakhstan teams have earned at the CIS Cup (Photo credit: com-cup.com)

A couple of words about Commomwealth of Independent States Cup, a competition that usually has seen teams from Kazakhstan struggle to find their feet.

Kazakhstan teams had taken part in every of 24 editions of CIS Cup, all of them in Russia (Moscow and St.Petersburg). Neither Kazakhstan clubs (betwen 1993 and 2011), nor Kazakhstan U-21 team (since 2012) could win the tournament initially intended to unite former Soviet sides.

In fact, the country's representatives have been poor throughout the competition as its clubs were able to qualify into the knockout phase only four times from 19 attempts, while Kazakhstan youth team has never reached top four finish.

First two successful group campaigns from Kazakhstan participants have been generated by Yelimay Semey and Kairat Almaty, with both sides then failing to advance further than last eight round.

In 1996, Yelimay lost 1-0 to Latvian club Skonto Riga in quarter-finals. And nine years later, Kairat repeated that discouraging feat, finding themselves eliminated at hands of Lithuanian side FBK Kaunas via penalty shoot-out following a goalless stalemate.

The highest result Kazakhstan gained at the CIS Cup, has come in 2009 and 2010 when FC Aktobe progressed into back-to-back title deciders. However, Vladimir Mukhanov's men weren't strong enough to lift the trophy. Aktobe have tied 1-1 with Moldovan champions FC Sheriff before losing them on penalties, and it was much more harsh 5-2 frustration against Russian top guns Rubin Kazan's reserve squad the next season.

Silver medals claiming looked like too demanding task for the U-21 team as they have finished outside the semi-finals in all five editions since the Cup moved from its initial club format and post-Soviet philosophy. As it is, Kazakhstan youngsters have their best outcome in recording fifth place in 2014.

In the latest edition in 2016, Kazakhstan U-21 team were guided by local manager Serik Abdualiyev to seventh-place finish among eight teams. Being the second from bottom in the final rankings is the worst display produced by the youth but it has some positives in terms of playing quality.

After a 1-0 loss to Moldova in the opening game, Kazakhstan played out a 0-0 tie with Belarus before ending group battles with a disappointing 2-2 draw against Kyrgyzstan.

In their must-win game, Abdualiyev's lads took a 2-1 lead and kept pushing forward in order to score the third goal for a 3-1 victory would help them to secure the runners-up spot to qualify into a third place match. Unfortunately for Kazakhstan, they conceded a late leveller that saw them sink to the bottom of the group. Although, they had some consolation by beating Tajikistan 3-2 in a one-game playoff.

Perhaps it was their last CIS Cup experience, with the competition's very existence being threatened due to growing lack of interest from the teams, audiences and sponsors.

Once a great tournament which used to attract post-USSR footballing elite and have had Joseph Blatter and Michel Platini as special guests on regular basis, the CIS Cup is in free fall, and that huge system crisis might blow the final whistle on it.

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