Russia vs. Portugal  1 - 0

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World Cup qualifying wrap: Russia edge Portugal, Dutch stay unbeaten

12 October 2012 20:35

Russia edged out Portugal in their 2014 World Cup qualifying clash as Romania's chances of heading to Brazil were also boosted on Friday.

At Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium, Aleksandr Kerzhakov's early goal proved enough for Russia to consolidate top spot in Group F through a 1-0 win over Portugal.

Kerzhakov opened the scoring in the sixth minute but Fabio Capello's men had to weather a barrage of Portuguese goal-scoring opportunities to maintain their 100 percent start to the qualifying campaign.

Portugal had seven shots on target for the match, including a number of great opportunities from set-pieces, but could not find the net as Russia held on to win and move three points clear of the visitors at the top of the group.

In the other Group F match on Friday night, the previously last-placed Israel leapt straight into third on the table with a 6-0 hammering of Luxembourg that was powered by Tomer Hemad's hat-trick.

In Group D, Romania and the Netherlands maintained their perfect starts to qualification through victories over Turkey and Andorra respectively.

Rafael van der Vaart gave Netherlands the lead in the seventh minute as the Dutch side consolidated the 3-0 result through further goals to Klaas Jan-Huntelaar and Ruben Schaken.

But the group's major result of the night was Romania's 1-0 victory over Turkey on the road in Istanbul.

Although Turkey dominated possession early on, Romania gradually worked themselves into the contest and went ahead during first-half injury-time as Mihai Pintilli's incisive through-ball allowed Gheorge Grozav to score.

Turkey attacked heavily during the second half but failed to take anything from the encounter as Mevlut Erdinc missed a gilt-edged chance late in the encounter.

With Hungary beating Estonia 1-0 for their second victory in qualification, 2002 World Cup semi-finalists Turkey find themselves in fourth on the Group D table ahead of Tuesday's clash with the Hungarians.

In Group A, Belgium and Croatia continue to lead the way.

Both nations showed off their potential as World Cup dark horses, with Belgium being particularly impressive as they beat Serbia 3-0 at Belgrade's Red Star Stadium through goals to Christian Benteke, Kevin De Bruyne and Kevin Mirallas.

With seven points from three games, Belgium is on top of Group A on goal difference over Croatia, who proved too good for Macedonia in a come-from-behind 2-1 victory.

Serbia remain in third while Wales have climbed to fourth through a gutsy victory in Cardiff as a Gareth Bale double in the last 10 minutes saw the Welsh side come from behind to defeat Scotland 2-1.

Both teams were winless heading into this encounter, but the Scots appeared in the box seat to take the points after James Morrison gave them the lead in the 27th minute.

As both sides produced numerous attacks, Scotland were controversially denied a second goal after Steven Fletcher nodded the ball in, with the referees assistant ruling that Charlie Adam's cross had curled fractionally out of play, even though TV replays suggested it had not.

And Wales heaped more misery on the Scots as Bale levelled from the spot in the 81st minute before scoring the winner with a minute remaining.

In Group B, Italy continue to lead after a hard-fought 3-1 win over Armenia on the road. The Italians are now two points clear on top of the table after second-placed Bulgaria could only draw 1-1 with Denmark (fifth).

The Czech Republic have climbed above Armenia into fourth through a 3-1 victory over a stubborn Malta side.

In Group C, Germany emphasised their credentials as a genuine World Cup contender with a 6-1 slaughter of Ireland that could spell the end for Irish coach Giovanni Trapattoni.

Substitute Tony Kroos scored a brace for Germany as they trounced Trapattoni's side and gave more ammunition to the 73-year-old coach's growing list of critics.

Germany are now three points ahead of second-placed Sweden, who were forced to come from behind to secure a 2-1 win over the Faroe Islands, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic firing home a 75th-minute winner.

Despite their embarrassing loss, Ireland remain in third after Austria (fourth) and Kazakhstan (fifth) drew 0-0.

In Group E, Iceland have maintained their push for a World Cup place through their second qualification win in a 2-1 result over Albania that finds them just one point adrift of Switzerland, who drew 1-1 with Norway on Friday night.

Slovenia, though, remain in fifth position after their first qualification victory, as they beat Cyprus 2-1.

Group G saw Slovakia draw level with table-topping Bosnia via a 2-1 win over Latvia as the Bosnians were held to a goalless draw by Greece. The group's other game saw Lithuania record their first qualifying win with a 2-0 victory over Liechtenstein.

England have consolidated their hold on top spot of Group H thanks to a 5-0 victory over San Marino in a match that saw Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck both score doubles, while Moldova and Ukraine fought out a 0-0 draw.

And lastly in Group I, a hat-trick from Pedro helped Spain destroy Belarus 4-0 as Finland and Georgia fought out a 1-1 draw.

Article

World Cup qualifying preview: Russia, Portugal in key clash

12 October 2012 09:55

Head coach Fabio Capello has turned to Russia's next generation of attacking talent for their World Cup qualifier versus Portugal.

The 66-year-old Italian will be expected to start Zenit St Petersburg striker Aleksandr Kerzhakov in the home qualifier on Friday but could turn to Artyom Dzyuba, Alexander Kokorin or debutant Maksim Grigoriev to play in a front two or as options off the bench.

Dzyuba (24-years-old), Kokorin (21) and Grigoriev (22) have played a combined 10 matches for Russia's senior national team and have been preferred by Capello over English Premier League-based pair Andrey Arshavin and Pavel Pogrebnyak.

Kokorin, who has played nine internationals for Russia, has the best form of Capello's young forwards with six goals from 12 games for Dinamo Moscow so far this season.

Russia and Portugal will start their match in first and second place in Group F in UEFA qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup after two victories each from as many games, with Capello's side just ahead courtesy of superior goal difference.

Serbia will host Belgium in another clash between two teams at the top of their group.

The two countries have a win and a draw each so far in Group A, with the Serbs ahead on goal difference, while Croatia are in third but also have four points going into their trip to Macedonia.

In another Group A clash, Wales host Scotland, while in Group B, Denmark head to Bulgaria and Czech Republic will welcome Malta to Plzen.

Austria face a tough trip in Group C as they go to Kazakhstan, as Sweden take on the Faroe Islands.

The Netherlands should have no problems at home versus Andorra in Group D, with the main fixture seeing top-side Romania head to Turkey and Estonia host Hungary.

In Group E, Switzerland are up against Norway, Albania will play Iceland and Slovenia take on Cyprus, while in Group F, Luxembourg host Israel as they both try to catch up to the Russians and Portuguese.

The top two teams in Group G will go head-to-head with Bosnia and Herzegovina travelling to Greece, plus Slovakia are set to host Latvia and Lithuania should be confident of victory on their trip to Liechtenstein.

In Group H, Moldova are up against Ukraine.

Article

Unsettled Capello desperate to succeed

9 October 2012 10:30

Russia coach Fabio Capello is finding it difficult to adapt to his new surroundings.

But the former England coach is determined to overcome any obstacles as he tries to guide the team to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Capello replaced Dick Advocaat at the helm after a disappointing Euro 2012 campaign, but he has so far struggled to settle.

"Everything is written in Cyrillic, and it's difficult to read and to learn the Cyrillic alphabet," Capello told UEFA.com.

"I always need a translator, and it makes it a bit more difficult to say what I want to say. Sometimes the right expression, the right word, helps you a lot. So I would say it's really difficult.

"But as with all difficult challenges, I like to take them on.

"I have just arrived and I am living in a hotel. Moscow is a beautiful city. Russia is a nation full of development.

"You see many nice things. For example all the stadiums are built for the World Cup, the infrastructure, so it's really a nation worth living in."

Russia are top of Group F on six points with Portugal, who they play in Moscow on Friday, followed by another home qualifier against Azerbaijan on Tuesday.

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Ronaldo fit for Portugal duty

8 October 2012 15:29

Real Madrid's medical team have given Cristiano Ronaldo the green light to travel to Portugal and report for international duty.

The prolific attacker sustained a shoulder injury in Real's 2-2 La Liga draw away to Barcelona on Sunday, and there were fears that he would face a spell on the sidelines.

Ronaldo has since undergone further examination by the club's doctors, and the Spanish title holders have announced on their official website the injury is not serious.

The 27-year-old is expected to fly to his homeland on Monday as Portugal gather in Obidos ahead of their 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Russia on Friday and Northern Ireland four days later.

Portugal sit joint first in their qualification section with Russia after both sides collected six points from their opening two games.