Capello & Kazakhs satisfied
Fabio Capello gave a nod to Almaty's image-makers with a glowing recommendation for the National Museum and England's coach ended a tortuous trip to Kazakhstan three points closer to World Cup qualification.
It was smiles all round in the musty, over-crowded room where Capello pored over a satisfactory conclusion to England's visit to this eastern outpost of European football.
Capello did not make this 7,000-mile round trip to do the tourist bit, but he was happy to oblige England's welcoming Kazakh hosts one final time before sweeping away from the Central Stadium en route to the plane back to London.
Business is business and the only real Almaty keepsake Capello wanted accompanying him on that long flight was a sixth successive win in Group Six and the prospect of spending next summer in South Africa coming into sharper focus.
And it was duly delivered, despite early alarms, with another prime example of the pragmatism that is becoming the trademark of Capello's England reign.
In the build-up to a noisy, atmospheric night in this old sporting monument, Capello was drawn into comparisons between football and tennis - concluding England are fashioned in the mould of Rafael Nadal as opposed to Roger Federer.
If this was England as Nadal, they downed Kazakhstan by winning a first set tie-breaker before finishing off a demoralised opponent in three straight sets. It was a game that had anxieties but was ultimately comfortable.
England's opening 20 minutes screamed jetlag, but once they found their legs and Kazakhstan, as they do, lost theirs the victory was assured. Gareth Barry and Emile Heskey applied the blows before the interval, Wayne Rooney and Frank Lampard finished the job in the closing quarter.
Capello declared his satisfaction, although some first half body language that suggested one of his expensive shoes had caught fire hinted at other, darker, emotions. Sergey Ostapenko's header gave Kazakhstan hope until a linesman's flag wiped out the goal, and with it the Kazakh challenge.
Such is Capello's confidence in England's players that when asked what would have happened had Kazakhstan's goal stood, he shot back: "We would have won 4-1."
Steven Gerrard's quality lifted England out of the early slumber, while Rooney's brilliant overhead kick was the stamp of class they will need in South Africa.
England wanted the win and Kazakhstan wanted to maximise the prestige and profile this game afforded the country. Both requirements were fully satisfied.
The Premier League is big business here. The two unlikely figures pictured staring out in an attempt to lure passers-by into a rundown local pool hall are Cristiano Ronaldo and Andrey Arshavin.
Indeed, as one member of the Kazakh media marched briskly to his seat one item of his apparel made him a man apart - namely his gleaming new England shirt.
So it was with a curious mixture of partisanship and star-struck admiration that the Almaty crowd reacted to events. It is rare indeed to hear names of the opposition cheered as well as the home players, and there was audible delight when David Beckham won his latest cameo cap with 15 minutes left.
This was a showcase for Kazakhstan that went some distance beyond 90 minutes of football. If this was to be Almaty's - and indeed this country's - spell in the sporting spotlight, it was time well spent.
This a place with prospects and plenty of space. It is the world's biggest landlocked state and its ninth-biggest country, so there is room to advertise and England's arrival presented an opportunity too good to ignore.
There was a sense of adventure on and off the field, a genuine realisation that this was a unique setting for an England international. Snow-capped mountains rose behind one end of the Central Stadium, China lay only 200 miles away, and there was even a sprinkling of the surreal as scores of stone-faced military figures stared unblinkingly into deserted stands long after the final whistle.
It was all too much for one poor soul who enlivened proceedings late on with a ludicrous dash onto the pitch that ended with him hurling himself spectacularly into Robert Green's net. The fun ended there however - to say he was "bundled" away does the ever-vigilant stadium security forces a great kindness.
England, in the context of an arena that in some parts reeked of faded grandeur, showed they could rough it and come out on top.
As they return to the opulent environment of Wembley on Wednesday to face Andorra, they may actually look back in satisfaction at proving they can still cope with some spartan scenes that greeted them here on Saturday.
The dressing-room walls had not been regularly acquainted with fresh paint, radiators looked like cast-off relics from an old school - but England's players, and indeed the Football Association, embraced all aspects of this trip fully.
As, it must be stressed, did the media corps travelling with England. Such was the squeeze on space inside the stadium, many ended up sitting on chairs parked on the running track that swept around the playing surface, in close proximity to the action. Despite the dangers the bulldog spirit prevailed, as is only to be expected.
Capello's analysis after the game was shaped by circumstance. England's players had just concluded a long domestic campaign, with some involved in Champions League and FA Cup finals.
The task was to navigate their way in and out of Kazakhstan with minimum damage. The objective has been achieved and if England make it a perfect seven against Andorra Capello may even be persuaded to talk about South Africa as if it is a serious possibility rather than a distant dream.
No, the performance was not vintage, but only the result mattered to England while the game itself was enough for Kazakhstan.
The local paper "Doda" asked the question "Can we get the points?" in its main headline before the game. Victory was never a serious option, but time spent here this week uncovered compelling evidence that this was not the main object of the exercise.
England's players took off from Almaty airport with the job done - and Kazakhstan could say the same same.