/ Soccer

Kazakhstan captain insists hosts will go on offensive

Updated: Thursday, 06 Sep 2012 18:04 | Comments

Kairat Nurdauletov is in bullish mood ahead of the World Cup clash with the Republic of Ireland in Astana
Kairat Nurdauletov is in bullish mood ahead of the World Cup clash with the Republic of Ireland in Astana

Kazakhstan captain Kairat Nurdauletov has warned the Republic of Ireland that his team will settle for nothing less than victory in Friday’s World Cup qualifier in Astana.

Despite their off-the-field troubles, Ireland go into their first World Cup qualifier as solid favourites.

Kazakhstan are ranked 116 places below Giovanni Trapattoni's team in the FIFA ladder and their last two World Cup qualifying campaigns have seen them pick up just two wins - both against Andorra - and one draw versus Turkey.

The Kazakhs have spent over a week at a training camp preparing for the game, however, and defender Nurdauletov is bullish about his team's chances of pulling off an upset.

"We would like to win. Only a victory will do. We wouldn't accept a draw," Nurdauletov told a press conference in the country's capital.

"Our preparation went well. We have been preparing specifically for the Irish team.

"We feel very good. We want to prove that our football is improving and developing."

Kazakhstan have struggled to make an impact on world football since their birth as a nation 21 years ago.

The former Soviet Republic do have a professional league, but the standard is poor and only a handful of their international squad play abroad.

They country's football association have taken steps to improve Kazakhstan's performances on the world level by recruiting Miroslav Beranek - a manager who has 21 years' experience with teams across the globe from Slavia Prague to Arab side Al-Wasl, who until recently were managed by Diego Maradona.

The Czech hopes he can end his team's reputation as one of the minnows of European football by challenging the likes of the Republic, Austria and Sweden for a place away from the lower reaches of Group C.

"Our group can be split into three - the first group is Germany, the second is Ireland, Sweden and Austria, and the third is our nation and the Faroe Islands," said Beranek, who assumed his role last year.

"I want to close that gap between the second and third group, I want to show that there is not such a big difference and we have a match here to show we can do this."

Trapattoni faced calls for his head following the Republic's poor showing at Euro 2012, and the Italian has been placed under further pressure in recent weeks.

Damien Duff and Shay Given, who won 225 caps between them, both told Trapattoni they were retiring from international football and the Italian also received the unwelcome news that Darron Gibson refused a call up for tomorrow's game due to his disappointment at not playing during Euro 2012.

Beranek insists his team face a tough task if they are to win tomorrow, however, citing key players like Robbie Keane and Aiden McGeady who he fears could tear the hosts apart.

"There are lots of good players in the squad who can fill the gaps of those who have retired," Beranek said.

"Ireland have players who play in the Premier League, who play in the USA, and there is Aiden McGeady, who plays for Spartak Moscow. The team have lots of good players.

"I watched Robbie Keane play in a game recently. He had two chances and scored two goals.

"The team do have weak points. I will not discuss them now but I have told my players what they are and they will try to exploit them."

Local officials expect the 30,000-capacity Astana Arena to be two-thirds full for the game, which will be played on an Astroturf pitch.

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