England play part in Kazakh history
England's 7,000-mile round trip to Almaty stretches far beyond the 90 minutes of football that will be played out at the Central Stadium on Saturday - it is an historic and symbolic moment for Kazakhstan.
The presence of England superstars David Beckham, Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard has been warmly embraced in European football's most Eastern point. Fabio Capello's players are often mobbed by fans on foreign soil for souvenir photographs - and here local journalists were at the front of the queue.
Kazakhstan will not qualify for the World Cup, so the importance of this match transcends next summer's showpiece in South Africa. It is an opportunity to put a part of Kazakhstan on public view and demonstrate its development.
The match is a 26,000 sell-out with prices ranging from 2,000 Tenge to 12,000 Tenge (around £8 to £48), with demand from regions outside Almaty mostly unsatisfied, meaning far more could have been sold.
England's players have a high profile here. Premier League games are shown live and one member of the Kazakh media posed alongside Lampard for pictures, complete with Chelsea shirt.
And Kazakhstan's place, however brief, on the world football stage, is an opportunity they are keen to exploit - as well as dispelling popular and unflattering myths.
The word "Borat" was to be the subject of a self-imposed ban for the entire life of this trip - until three separate Kazakh journalists brought the name of Sacha Baron Cohen's fictional, and culturally bereft, character into conversation without prompting.
Azamat Ashimov, press officer for the Football Federation of Kazakhstan, told me: "For us this is an historical game. It is important strategically for us to show Kazakhstan to other people. It is important for the image of Kazakhstan to have a big and famous team like England here.
"In Kazakhstan more people like English football than other countries. The popular clubs are Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea. David Beckham is the most popular player, probably for his lifestyle as well as his football."
Dauren Zhailin, from the Kazakhstan Information Agency, was at pains to stress the wider context and importance of England's visit here, away from the business of World Cup qualification.
He told me: "We are very proud as a nation to have England here. This is a big moment for us. This is the biggest game we have played. We are developing country. People in England probably know Borat - we want to show Kazakhstan is much more.
"Beckham is, of course, a favourite and of course people here know about his wife Victoria from the Spice Girls. But Rooney, Lampard and Steven Gerrard are also loved by fans in Kazakhstan."
And while the rest of Europe is in the grip of recession, there is a feeling of optimism in Almaty and the rest of Kazakhstan as Zhailin says: "The economy here is good, with the advantages of the oil and gas industry.
"So yes, this is a football match and one the whole country will be watching, but for a relatively young country like ours it means more."
For Capello, it is a question of acclimatising for this lengthy, but relatively brief, trip to a country that is further east than Baghdad. If you head in this direction to visit European's football community, Kazakhstan represents the end of the line.
And former England manager Graham Taylor, in Almaty as a BBC pundit, admitted the trip presented Capello with a delicate balancing act.
He told me: "It is difficult, because even with all the modern ways of professionalism and recovery, an almost 8,000-mile round trip is a real trek for anyone. And by the time these lads get back there will be next to no time to prepare for the Andorra game at Wednesday.
"I have to respect the Football Association for the way they have organised these games. Imagine if this one had been taken during the season - imagine the reaction of the clubs.
"To have this trip to Kazakhstan followed by the Andorra game is a very good piece of organisation. It is the perfect combination of fixtures."
England's players arrived at their base late on Wednesday night. They rested while Lampard and Rooney were presented for media duties before heading off to train in warm, but very comfortable, afternoon temperatures.
Taylor said: "I think preparation will be quite light. The five-hour time difference does make a difference. Does Capello try and keep it to English time and alter it all around that? I know Sven-Goran Eriksson did it from time to time when it was one or two hours, but five hours is a long time.
"The players will be tired. I know people ask how because they are only playing football, but this is at the highest level, with these lads competing in the Premier League, Champions League final and FA Cup final. This brings mental and physical tiredness.
"Capello will be aware of that after experiencing a full Premier League season. They have come a long way, we have heard the pitch is not so good, but he will be stressing the season isn't over.
"He will be telling them there are two important games left, but will also understand they are at the end of a very long and pressurised season. This is why I believe, in Capello's mind, the performance will be very secondary to the result.
"It is about coming all this way and going home with three points. It is not about getting three points but also playing magnificently, although that would obviously be the ideal."
For Capello and England victory is the only ambition - for Kazakhstan this World Cup qualifier means so much more on a landmark day for this country.