With Kazakhstan being a transcontinental country, its territory spans Europe and Asia. Thus, many people find the geographical location of Kazakhstan complicated.
As a result, these growing concerns have extended to their football federation. Nowadays, you may wonder why Kazakhstan is playing in European competitions, especially since they are situated in Asia!
Here’s what you need to know about the circumstances that led them to play in Europe.
Why does Kazakhstan play in Europe?
Kazakhstan’s national team and clubs can play in Europe because they are recognised as a European State and they have been approved by the UEFA.
Is Kazakhstan able to play in Europe?
Kazakhstan has strong ties with the European Union. They fulfilled the Council of Europe’s two criteria, which are:
- Being wholly or partly located in Europe and
- accepting democratic values
More so, Kazakhstan has been identifying itself as a European country.
As a result, applying for UEFA’s membership became easy since some of its territories fall under Europe.
The history behind Kazakhstan playing in Europe
Let’s learn the history behind how Kazakhstan and its clubs ended up playing in Europe.
Kazakhstan was a member of the United Socialist Soviet Republic (USSR). They were the last of the Soviet republics to declare their independence in 1991.
The Kazakhstan Football Federation also left the Soviet Union national football team. After breaking up, the majority of Kazakhstan became part of Central Asia. However, some part of its territory still falls under Europe.
Afterwards, they joined the Asian Football Confederation in 1992. At the time, the confederation called them Asia’s strongest and most improving team.
During this period, non-European countries started showing the initiative to join UEFA. One of the more significant ones was when the Israel Football Confederation applied for an opportunity to compete in UEFA competitions. This occurred after leaving the AFC due to conflict with neighboring countries.
So, in 1994, UEFA decided to accept Israel’s application. By doing this, UEFA demonstrated they were open to accepting new members.
After Kazakhstan failed to qualify for the 1998 and 2002 World Cup, they applied to join UEFA.
UEFA only allowed Kazakhstan to compete in Europe after leaving the AFC in 2001.
However, they’re yet to qualify for the FIFA World Cup or UEFA European Championship as a European country.
I’ve seen that Kazakhstan is a typical example of a country that joined UEFA for serious sporting reasons. Thus, it is safe to say political bias doesn’t come into play when joining UEFA.
How has Kazakhstan performed in Europe over the years?
Here are some of the exploits of Kazakhstan’s football team in European competitions.
Kazakhstan’s performances in the early days
The performance of the Kazakhstan team was nothing to write about in the early years of joining UEFA. You will see that they often finish near dead last or bottom with most of their qualifications.
Their poor form continued into several qualifiers for FIFA World Cup and UEFA Euro. Their first official match in 2004 ended in a 2-1 defeat against Ukraine. They went further to lose their next nine games after taking a good beating from their opponents.
Kazakhstan’s recent football performances
For Kazakhstan, their footballing journey has not been easy. The team continued to find itself inferior to other established groups in Europe. They recorded their biggest defeat against France in 2021, where the match ended with a whopping 8 – 0 score line during the recent FIFA World Cup qualifier.
Furthermore, Kazakhstan achieved ten points in the UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying campaign. This has been their best performance so far.
Their 3 – 0 win against Scotland was a major talking point for fans worldwide!
This increase in the star rating of Kazakhstan players could help the team as well.
You will discover that they can still play in notable European competitions. They have been able to play in the UEFA Nations League in which they have managed to score 6 goals.
However, they are yet to make it through the qualifiers for UEFA Euros and the FIFA World Cup. As a result, Kazakhstan’s national team has not been able to play in these competitions.
Kazakhstan clubs’ performances in European continental tournaments
You may also find that Kazakhstan’s top clubs play in European tournaments, including the UEFA Champions League and Europa League.
Astana is a notable Kazakhstan club with renowned feats in European tournaments. Astana became the first Kazakhstani team to get into the UEFA Champion league group stage in 2015. They also became the first Kazakhstani club to finish as runner-up in the UEFA Europa League group stages in 2017.
Moreover, Kairat became the first Kazakhstani club to play in UEFA Europa Conference League.
After leaving the AFC and being accepted by UEFA, Kazakhstan has been playing in Europe ever since.
This has allowed them to participate in European club and continental tournaments!
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