Kazakhstan in the UEFA EURO 2016 qualifiers: Tactical Overview.
Yuri Krasnozhan was appointed as Kazakhstan national team manager in February 2014 to face a tough task to lead them through European qualifiers against very strong opposition.
After initial strugglings, the Russian manager could finally achieve some creditable results. However, he won't continue as his contract hasn't been renewed, but his legacy, especially that based on his 2015 display, may be praised as important and promising.
What tactical tweaks had the former Spartak Nalchik and Russia-2 boss tried in his stint at Kazakhstan? See below the three formations adopted by Krasnozhan for the EURO 2016 qualifying battles.
Against Latvia (0-0, H 09/11/14), Netherlands (1-3, A 10/10/14), Czech Republic (2-4, H 13/11/14), Turkey (1-3, A 16/11/14), Iceland (0-3, H 28/03/15) and Turkey (0-1, H 12/06/15)
Krasnozhan had used this system for the best part of the campaign, with his side starting six qualifying matches with five-man backline.
Despite its ultra-defensive nature, it proved to be the most ineffective and exposed Krasnozhan's model. It saw Kazakhstan struggle to find balance and composure, shipping 14 goals and scoring four in 540 minutes of football to come away with a solitary point bagged in the process.
On the other side, you have to take into account that in his first 15 months or so in Kazakhstan, Krasnozhan has been searching for his best starting XI. While experimenting to determine the most clicked version of the team, he put no less than 25 players into rotation in his starting lineups.
Against Czech Republic (1-2, A 03/09/15), Iceland (0-0, A 06/09/15) and Netherlands (1-2, H 10/10/15)
Although the last game played with 5-2-2-1, a 1-0 home loss to Turkey, provided some promising signs, Krasnozhan refused to be sticked with it in the next outing at Czech Republic.
For the first time in EURO 2016 qualifying campaign, Kazakhstan started with four-man backline and were able to make an impact in the middle of the park, with Samat Smakov and Islambek Kuat pulling the strings as holding midfielders in a double-pivot system.
Meanwhile, Stas Pokatilov became the first-choice goalkeeper after his good performance against Turkey when he made a string of saves, being beaten only by Barcelona winger Arda Turan's fantastic finish.
Settled into a 4-2-3-1 formation, Kazakhstan managed to gain more momentum in the final third of the pitch influencing their stats. The team couldn't win, nevertheless they were much more solid and aggressive in challenging group favourites to reach a form which helped them wrap up their campaign on a positive note.
Against Latvia (1-0, A 13/10/15)
Only victory would have lifted Kazakhstan in the fifth spot in the group table and the a goal from Kuat all but secured it for Krasnozhan's men. It was a well-deserved win to round off the qualification in an optimistic way.
But for now, Kazakhstan are entering a new cycle following Krasnozhan's exit. The managerial post is still vacant at the moment amidst the media speculations of hiring another foreign coach, such as José Couceiro, Lothar Matthäus, Hervé Renard or Vladimír Weiss.
Whoever gets the job, he will bring a completely different vision in terms of tactics as well as mentality and fitness. And only time will tell whether Krasnozhan's know-how could be exploited properly in the FIFA 2018 World Cup preliminaries.