Russia beats Luxembourg, stays on track for WCup
LISBON, Portugal (AP)
Russia virtually assured its qualification for the World Cup with a 4-0 rout of Luxembourg on Friday that gave Fabio Capello's team a three-point lead at the top of Group F after Israel grabbed a late equalizer for a 1-1 draw against Portugal.
Portugal could still pull level with Russia in next week's last qualifiers but the Russians have scored seven more goals than the Portuguese, giving them the decisive edge.
The draw in Lisbon ensured Portugal at least a place in the playoff between the best eight second-place teams in the nine European qualifying groups.
Bulgaria's 2-1 defeat against Armenia in Group B meant Portugal has enough points for a playoff berth.
Russia powered past Luxembourg with first-half goals from Alexander Samedov, Victor Faizulin and Denis Glushakov. Alexander Kerzhakov got another in the 73rd.
''We have played a very good match, on high speed and with great desire,'' Russia coach Fabio Capello said. ''We've reached our goal.''
Portugal, a 2012 European Championship semifinalist, failed to impress against Israel in what has been a lackluster qualifying campaign, with Cristiano Ronaldo producing a muted performance in the Portuguese capital.
A blunder by goalkeeper Rui Patricio cost Portugal victory as his 85th-minute clearance went straight to Ben Basat, who canceled out Ricardo Costa's 27th-minute strike.
The game was tense to the end as a below-par Portuguese team held onto its slender lead.
Portugal's qualification bid went off track earlier in the campaign with a 1-1 home draw against Northern Ireland and a 3-3- draw in Israel, and Friday's lukewarm match was reminiscent of those displays.
The Portuguese defense was depleted by the absence of three regular starters, but its attack was the weakest point and the team struggled to find its rhythm going forward.