ALMATY - Lampooned in the hit film Borat as backward, racist and misogynist, Kazakhstan were looking to their footballers to recover national pride when they faced England in a World Cup qualifier on Saturday.
Though they eventually went down 5-1, the score flattered England somewhat, with all the goals coming in the second half.
The sprawling central Asian republic, which has only been an independent country since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, is determined to make an impact on the football world despite its modest record.
During the Soviet era Kazakhstan was never famous for its football achievements but rather for producing stars for the Soviet national squads in cycling, boxing, weightlifting and gymnastics.
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan football's ruling body became a member of the Asian Football Confederation in 1994 and made a debut appearance in the 1998 World Cup qualifying campaign.
Kazakhstan finished top of their pre-qualifying group ahead of Iraq and Pakistan but in the deciding stages they were rock bottom.
In their second qualifying attempt for the 2002 World Cup, Kazakhstan finished their second qualifying round group level on points but behind winners Iraq on goal difference.
In 2004 Kazakhstan, despite being located mostly in central Asia, was affiliated with European football's governing body UEFA.
But the new Europeans had a disastrous campaign in trying to qualify for the 2006 World Cup finals, gaining just one point from a possible 36.
The Kazakhstan football association has become impatient with failure.
Dutch coach Arno Pijpers was sacked last month after a 3-0 away defeat at Croatia and a 3-1 loss at home to Ukraine in the qualifying group for the 2010 World Cup.
Secretary-general Sayan Khamitzhanov said: "How long should we endure it? We in the federation are ashamed of the existing situation and we all must apologise to the country's fans for it."
Germany's Berndt Stork, brought in as interim coach, left several veterans out of his selection for the game in London.
The country's top goalkeeper, David Loria, and attacking midfielder Nurbol Zhumaskaliev missed the match along with Dynamo Moscow halfback Andrei Karpovich.
Stork, who is also Kazakhstan's Under-21 team coach, called up 10 rookies.
But the coach faces deep-lying problems with Kazakh football.
Kazakhstan Soviet era flagship club Kairat Almaty is now only a pale shadow of its former self. - Sapa-AFP