European qualifying to the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ kicked off yesterday evening, and 90 minutes later there were smiles across the faces of the home supporters at Almaty. There, a double from Sergei Ostapenko inspired Kazakhstan to a 3-0 win over Andorra in a battle between teams that have never reached the world finals.
It took Arno Pijpers' side just 14 minutes to find a breakthrough. Farhadbek Irismetov raced down the wing and from his pinpoint cross, Ostapenko beat Andorra goalkeeper Jose Antonio Gomes with a firm, low finish.
The robust striker, 22, who plays his club football for local side Almaty, then doubled Kazakhstan's lead on the half-hour mark, capitalising upon defensive hesitation in the Andorran area to thump the ball past a helpless Gomes. Roman Uzdenov made it 3-0 on the stoke of half-time, powerfully heading home a Ruslan Baltiev centre.
Andorra almost reduced the deficit five minutes after the restart. Marc Pujol curled a free-kick on to the head of Xavier Andorra, whose effort was expertly tipped around the post by the diving David Loria.
Thereafter, David Rodrigo's side enjoyed a majority of the possession, but they failed to threaten the Kazakh goal, and the hosts strolled to their first FIFA World Cup qualifying win as a European nation.
Andorra will entertain England in their second preliminary match on 6 September, while Kazakhstan will travel to Croatia on the same day. Group 6 in the UEFA Zone also comprises Belarus and Ukraine.
Kazakhstan are positioned 125th on the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, with Andorra, the third-lowest European side, down in 182nd.