With the 2014 World Cup just a year away, the qualifying matches have taken even greater importance as teams head towards the finish line.
Here we take a look at how the European sides of Group F got on this past week:
Portugal 1-0 Russia
The win over Russia helped Portugal leap-frog their opponents on the night and Israel, putting them in first place. The Russian side were a shadow of the team that went into the match with a 100 per cent record from their four games in group F. Perhaps the speculation surrounding Fabio Capello’s future made them lose focus. Whatever the case, they were outplayed by Ronaldo and co, and can count themselves lucky for losing by a single goal, courtesy of Helder Postiga.
Azerbaijan 1-1 Luxembourg
Both teams are still looking for their first win in the qualifiers. Azerbaijan took the lead in the second-half through Abbasov before Bensi leveled the scores ten minutes from time. Subashic was sent-off five minutes after the equaliser, but the hosts couldn’t capitalise on their advantage.
Even though Portugal is top of the group, the Russians have a better chance of qualifying directly for the World Cup finals, seeing as they have two matches in hand. Russia still have three away games against Northern Ireland, Luxembourg and Azerbaijan along with home games against Luxembourg and group rivals Israel.
However, if they finish off how they started, they’re almost guaranteed to go through. Israel on the other hand is yet to play tough away games against Russia and Portugal, along with the home games against Northern Ireland and Azerbaijan. They’re going to have their work cut out for them if they’re thinking of qualifying. Portugal, meanwhile, have an away game against Northern Ireland, along with two home games with Israel and Luxembourg.
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