MARIBOR, Slovenia (AFP) - Slovenia qualified for only their second World Cup on Wednesday with a 1-0 win over nine-man Russia in their European zone, second-leg play-off tie.
Striker Zlatko Dedic, who plays his club football for Bochum in Germany, scored the only goal just before the break. He was fastest to the ball when Valter Birsa crossed from the right with Russia's defenders caught cold.
Russia had won the first leg 2-1 in Moscow on Saturday, but Slovenia's win on Wednesday meant they qualified on the away goals rule.
"They are men of merit for continuing the Slovenian football fairy tale," said Slovenia coach Matjaz Kek.
"They have become immortal. We were better from the first minute of the game and we earned the right to go to South Africa."
Dedic added: "Our dreams came true. We all deserving the success, from the first to the last fan."
Everton midfielder Diniyar Bilyaletdinov had scored twice in the first match before Nejc Pecnik's goal two minutes from time gave Slovenia hope for Wednesday's return leg.
After conceding Dedic's goal here, Guus Hiddink's Russian side suffered another setback when substitute striker Alexander Kerzhakov was red-carded for a foul on goalkeeper Samir Handanovic in the 66th minute.
Kerzhakov had only come at the interval to replace the ineffective Tottenham striker Roman Pavlyuchenko.
Russia shrugged off them red-card to dominate possession in the closing stages with Arsenal star Andrei Arshavin starting to impose himself on the tie.
Arshavin set up substitute Pavel Pogrebnyak, whose header was well-saved by Handanovic.
Yuri Zhirkov then had a fierce drive saved by Handanovic before Dedic wasted a great chance to finish the game at the other end when he blasted over the top with five minutes left.
Slovenia held firm to reach their first World Cup finals since their 2002 debut.
Slovenian coach Matjaz Kek started the game with the same team from Moscow while Hiddink started with one change, bringing in Semak Janbayev as both sides played a 4-4-2 formation.
In the forth minute, Milivoje Novakovic was one-on-one with Russian goalkeeper Igor Akinfeyev before the danger was cleared before Andraz Kirm hit the post.
Russia's opportunities were rare in the opening period and their miserable night got even worse in injury time when Zhirkov was sent-off.
|Coach: M. Kek|
for V. Birsa 79'
for Z. Dedič 90+4'
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