England v Kazakhstan: Forget the result, Kazakhs value David Beckham souvenirs

05 Jun 2009. Daily Telegraph

By Jason Burt in Almaty

England v Kazakhstan: Forget the result, Kazakhs value David Beckham souvenirsPrices may be high for Kazakhstan’s match against England on Saturday – the best seats at the Central Stadium costing around ?48, three times the previous record – but expectations are not.

Kazakhstan v England

Kick-off: Sat June 6, 4.00pm (BST), Almaty Central Stadium, Almaty, Kazakhstan

TV: Setanta Sports 1, Setanta Ireland

Radio: BBC Radio Five Live

Asked what he hoped for from what he also called “the biggest match in Kazakhstan’s [90-year] history”, coach Bernd Stork said: “That the result will not be so high as in the previous two games.”

In their last two qualifiers, the Kazakhs have conceded five goals against England and Belarus. On both occasions the damage was inflicted in the second half and one of Stork’s main frustrations is the woeful fitness level of his players, even though all are full-time professionals.

“The English players are tired but we are more tired. We could play in the fifth league in Germany with our fitness, so when teams play fast against us we have big problems,” the German coach said.

“It’s the old Russian system,” Stork added. “I’ve got big trouble with three big clubs because they don’t want to do what we want to do – regular testing, taking blood. They say ‘with our clubs we have success, we win cups’. But international football is international standard. They don’t understand they only stay and live in this country.”

Frustratingly for Stork, he said his players are less fit now than when they faced England last year. “It’s worse,” he explained. “They are not so fit as they were at Wembley. They go back to their clubs and the training is not so good.”

Stork picked out Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard and Emile Heskey as the players he was most concerned about. “Rooney is a very important player, and Heskey,” he said. “But they have problems too. The goalkeeper is not so experienced and they must choose between Upson and Lescott in defence although both are big players in the Premier League.”

Stork said that one of his greatest difficulties when his players faced England last time was to deal with their “nerves” at coming up against the likes of David Beckham. “This is our biggest game and the players know this,” Stork said.

“The people here see the Premier League every week. My players are happy to play against them but the problem is they want to have their picture taken with these players. I have to tell them at first we must win, then afterwards do what you want.

“I think they are a little bit nervous. It’s a young country and this game offers big possibilities for people to come here and be happy – if England don’t get a big result. Every time we shoot at goal on Saturday will be a big success for this country.”