Scotland’s hopes of returning to major-tournament football after a 22-year absence suffered a heavy blow Thursday with a 3-0 loss to Kazakhstan in the first qualifier for next year’s European Championship.

The Kazakhs scored twice in the opening 10 minutes and added another goal in the 51st minute.

Scotland — one of the 12 co-hosts for next year’s tournament — had been eyeing further success after earning promotion in the Nations League last year and had lost just one of its last 10 competitive games.

Scotland's Callum McGregor, left, and Kazakhstan's Roman Murtazayev challenge for the ball during the Euro 2020 group I qualifying soccer match between Kazakhstan and the Scotland at Astana Arena stadium in Astana, Kazakhstan, Thursday, March 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Alexei Filippov)
Scotland’s Callum McGregor, left, and Kazakhstan’s Roman Murtazayev challenge for the ball during the Euro 2020 group I qualifying soccer match between Kazakhstan and the Scotland at Astana Arena stadium in Astana, Kazakhstan, Thursday, March 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Alexei Filippov)

It was only Kazakhstan’s fifth win in 35 European qualifying games since it joined UEFA in 2002.

Group I’s two favorites meet later Thursday as Belgium hosts Russia. Cyprus plays San Marino.

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Scotland's Callum McGregor, left, and Kazakhstan's Roman Murtazayev challenge for the ball during the Euro 2020 group I qualifying soccer match between Kazakhstan and the Scotland at Astana Arena stadium in Astana, Kazakhstan, Thursday, March 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Alexei Filippov)
Scotland’s Callum McGregor, left, and Kazakhstan’s Roman Murtazayev challenge for the ball during the Euro 2020 group I qualifying soccer match between Kazakhstan and the Scotland at Astana Arena stadium in Astana, Kazakhstan, Thursday, March 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Alexei Filippov)

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