England moved a whole lot nearer to world cup qualification yesterday without ever seriously raising the hopes of the average England fan in relation to achieving some modicum of success in that tournament in South Africa next Summer.
At the end of a long hard season this 7,000 mile round trip did not prove to be a trip too far, but in the early stages of the game it briefly looked as though it might just be that.
There is no doubt that Kazakhstan are one of the minnows of the world game and rightly or wrongly, England are regarded as one of the giants. This game should have been easy for the visitors and in the end, I suppose it was.
England maintained their 100% qualifying record and Kazakhstan failed to add to the three points they had managed to accumulate.
If you watched the Early stages of the game you might have been excused for not being entirely sure who the multi-millionaire superstars were and who the part-time bit players were. Inside twenty seconds skipper John Terry had to clear the ball from the England line and the pride of the visitors began to look as though it might take an enormous blow.
Although England had the majority of the possession they created little and the entire world thought that Kazakhstan had taken a not undeserved lead when Sergey Ostapenko headed home from a free-kick only for the offside flag to halt the celebrations.
When new Ã‚Â£12million Manchester City man Gareth Barry headed England ahead from a fine Gerrard cross, the man in the pub in which I was watching the game who had Barry as the first scorer and England to win 4-0 at odds of 100-1 started to get very excited.
Then, just before half-time, Kazakhstan showed just how bad they are by allowing Emile Heskey to score and double EnglandÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s lead. The goal came when Heskey followed in an audacious chip from Gerrard that the keeper made a total mess of.
In the second half England dominated without ever playing particularly well. The unimpressive Wayne Rooney suddenly burst into life eighteen minutes from the end when he struck home a superb scissor kick that showed his class, reactions and stunning ability.
Six minutes later Frank Lampard stuck home a penalty to make the score 4-0 and the game a comfortable win. That fourth goal was slightly flattering to England in a game that never saw them reach anywhere near the heights that we all know they can.
As it turned out, this win, coupled with the draw between Croatia and Ukraine makes qualification for England all but a formality.
The game in Almaty had a slightly surreal quality and The Kazakhstan fans had created a wonderful atmosphere with their unswerving support of their own team and an obvious appreciation and excitement at being in close proximity to England’s Premier League superstars.
The highlights of the game for England would include the four goals, the clean sheet and despite what the papers would have us believe, the reasonably professional way the team went about their business.
It was also great when Fabio Capello added another to David Beckham’s growing collection of cameo England caps with a 15-minute appearance as substitute.
Overall, England have no reason to be disappointed with what went on yesterday and Kazakhstan should be proud of the fight they put up. So, having said that and looking at the league table and seeing that England have a 100% record and are very nearly through to the finals already, why do I feel so pessimistic about our chances.
Why do I regard it as somewhere between impossible and highly unlikely that England that will make a genuine challenge for next yearÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s World cup? Is it because as an Englishman I am naturally pessimistic or is it because we are actually not very good?
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