Scotland face Kazakhstan for the first time when they kick-off their European Championship qualifying campaign today. Here, we look at the Dark Blues’ latest international opponents.
Kazakhstan head coach Michal Bilek came out on the winning side in one of Scotland’s most disappointing nights in recent years when he led his native Czech Republic to a 1-0 victory in Prague in 2010. The game was best remembered for Craig Levein’s 4-6-0 formation, but Bilek knows to expect a more attacking Scotland this time round, noting their pace and danger from out wide during his press conference.
The 53-year-old is taking charge of his first game today, having taken over in January.
Kazakhstan suffered a major blow after key danger man Bauyrzhan Islamkhan dropped out injured.
The midfielder has caused damage to Scottish football in the past, netting a sensational long-range strike against Aberdeen in a Europa League win for his Kairat Almaty side in 2015.
The most experienced player in their current squad, Astana centre back Yuriy Logvinenko, has also withdrawn. Bilek will be hoping to add some inspiration in the form of former AC Milan and Watford midfielder Alexander Merkel.
The former German youth international, who now plays for Heracles in Holland, has only played once for his native country but is back in the fold after a three-year absence.
Kazakhstan finished second in Nations League Group D1, but were 10 points behind Georgia after collecting six points from six matches.
They finished bottom of their World Cup 2018 qualifying group with three points and no wins, and were second bottom of their Euro 2016 group with five points.
They can only claim three victories from their last 40 competitive matches – against Andorra, Latvia and the Faroe Islands.