Soccer Europe Qualification Matches 23 March 2023
Kazakhstan vs Slovenia - Match Preview
Kazakhstan kick off their UEFA Euro 2024 qualifying campaign against Slovenia in what is a first-ever meeting between the sides. The Hawks, who only joined UEFA in 2002, are eyeing a maiden appearance at a European Championship but a competitive-looking Group H which also contains big-hitters Denmark means it’s potentially crucial that they put points on the board here.
Enduring a spate of failures to qualify for major tournaments, FIFA’s 115th-ranked nation is potentially on the up having recently secured promotion to League B of the Nations League (UNL). Kazakhstan president Kassym-Jomart Tokayev celebrated that achievement as “a big success’’ and he’ll hope the Hawks rouse the same fighting spirit that saw them win six of their eight UNL outings last year (D1, L1) with the side potentially dark horses in this group.
Matjaž Kek’s visitors are also aiming to create history, having not qualified for this competition since EURO 2000 despite a reasonable showing in the last qualification cycle (W4, D2, L4). Arriving in Astana guarding a six-game unbeaten run (W3, D3), results which helped them remain in UNL’s League B themselves, Kek may believe that finding a remedy for some travel sickness that’s seen them fail to win a competitive away outing since September 2021 (D3, L1) is the key to their qualification hopes this time around.
Don’t be surprised if a drama-filled encounter ensues after the whistle blows, with four of Slovenia’s last five outings seeing both sides score. However, the Slovenes will hope the sight of their captain and Atlético Madrid goalkeeper Jan Oblak between the sticks is enough to strike fear into Kazakhstan’s frontline and justify their status as favourites here.
📋 Players to watch: Oblak might need to keep an eye on Kazakhstan’s Abat Aymbetov, who has secured four goal contributions (G3, A1) from his last six competitive appearances for the national team. Benjamin Šeško is in even better form however, having netted in each of Slovenia’s last three competitive outings (W1, D2).
⚡ Hot stat: Kazakhstan has scored just one second-half goal over their last five competitive outings.
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