England embrace Almaty mission
England's main mission on their long trek east to Kazakhstan is to take another stride towards next summer's World Cup in South Africa - but diplomacy is also on the Football Association's agenda.
While coach Fabio Capello and his backroom team make adjustments to combat the effects of jetlag from the 3,500-mile journey, the FA has been ensuring England's warm welcome off the field in Almaty has been reciprocated.
England's presence in Almaty has been the catalyst for another demonstration of the power of the Premier League.
A group of Kazakhstan-based Liverpool fans gathered outside England's hotel as they made the short journey to the Central Stadium on Friday, and the colours of Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal were prominent in the crowd as they went through their work out.
This game has gripped the imagination of Almaty and the whole of Kazakhstan, and the FA has taken steps to ensure they embrace the interest they have created.
The FA's director of communications Adrian Bevington told me: "The people here have been very friendly to us. They have gone out of their way to make us feel welcome. And you can sense from them, without us trying to sound big time or patronising in any way, that they are very proud to be hosting the England team.
"Our players are very famous here because of the exposure of the Premier League around the world, and the most important thing from our point of view is that we are very respectful to them.
"We had some children in for training on Thursday from the local orphanage. They came in for 20 minutes, and we also had some children from the local English school come along. The players really enjoyed the experience and we're sure the children did as well.
"The players don't get much time to go out of the hotel because obviously they are here to do a job and need to prepare meticulously, but ultimately it is also important we show respect to our hosts during our time in Almaty and I think we have been.
"On Saturday Sir Trevor Brooking and Gordon Taylor, along with some England fans, will lay a wreath at the war memorial in Almaty. This is again about showing respect to our hosts in a country that was part of the former Soviet Union.
"It is definitely a different type of trip. It is a long journey and it is a different type of place to those we have been to before, but it has been a very good experience."
And that long journey has shaped Capello's planning as England attempt to make it six wins out of six in their World Cup qualifying campaign.
Bevington explained some of the tweaks to normal routines and advice given to players in an attempt to ensure all travel fatigue is out of their system at kick-off time on Saturday.
He said: "We flew out a day earlier than we normally would to try and counteract the time difference and the jetlag. The players were advised to stay awake if possible on the flight and when we got to our hotel late on Wednesday night go straight to bed.
"Even though they weren't all naturally tired, they were asked to go to bed and sleep as much as possible. They were then asked to be up at 9.30am on Thursday. This meant they were quickly into a routine and pattern and were tired in the evening.
"There are still some of the players who haven't slept as well as they would normally do, but a lot of the players are already into the right sleep patterns and certainly by Saturday they should all be ok.
"Training on Friday is a little bit earlier than the match would be, but it is really more important about the time they get up in the morning. On Thursday it was a 9.30am wake up call, on Friday morning it was 9am.
"It is really all about little nuances that have been introduced to help them in a situation where they have travelled so far, and obviously as always the preparation of Fabio and his staff has been meticulous for this trip and the journey we have undertaken."
England will seek one more adjustment before kick-off late on Saturday evening in Almaty. They will ask for another shaving of grass to be taken off a less-than-perfect playing surface at the Central Stadium.
Capello put his players through their paces on Friday evening. And if Kazakhstan's defence is a vigilant and uncompromising as the pitchside security during the open part of the session, it could yet be a long night for England.
It was a long day on Friday for match referee Kristinn Jokabsson from Iceland, whose flight from London was delayed and was not scheduled to arrive in Almaty until 11pm local time.
Once again the locals were out in force around the Central Stadium to give a rousing welcome their own players as well as England's, adding to a real sense of occasion accompanying Capello's team in this distant location.
One of the vagaries of a bustling city is taxi travel - with even the shortest journey an adventure. Road markings do not appear to be the basis of the rules of the road, simply the opening of negotiations between drivers.
Drivers also have the unnerving habit of abruptly stopping to allow pedestrians to cross the road, a test of nerve and even pace without the comforting presence of a zebra crossing. Some cars come to a halt to offer unsolicited lifts to chosen destinations - a pastime not to be encouraged.
There can be real risks attached and the FA was once again at pains to emphasise a message delivered to all supporters here about the dangers of unlicenced taxis.
Bevington said: "We would strongly advise our supporters not to use these unlicenced taxis. The people here have been very friendly and welcoming, but we would ask our supporters to be vigilant in not using these taxis."
The FA, however, have been delighted by the warmth of their welcome in Kazakhstan and have also fostered good relations with the locals, elated to have superstars such as David Beckham, Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard in their midst.
The goodwill will not extend to Saturday's World Cup qualifier - with Capello refusing to let guard down for a second as he insisted travel would provide no excuse for failure against Kazakhstan.
Nothing has been left to chance off the pitch, now England need to complete the mission in the Central Stadium.