LUXEMBOURG, October 12 (R-Sport) – Russia are on the brink of qualifying for their first World Cup in 12 years after beating Luxembourg 4-0 on Friday to take a four-point lead over Portugal in Group F.
Russia will advance to the finals later Friday if Israel manage a surprise win in Lisbon, but otherwise Fabio Capello's side only need to match Portugal’s result in the sole remaining qualifier on Tuesday to secure a place in Brazil next summer, with Azerbaijan the opponents.
It took the visitors just seven minutes to go in front as Alexander Samedov curled a deflected shot into the far corner from 12 yards out.
Viktor Faizulin slid Russia’s second into the roof of the net half an hour later after a sumptuous cross from his Zenit St. Petersburg teammate Roman Shirokov, the captain for the night with Igor Denisov losing out to Denis Glushakov for a starting place.
That choice was justified just before half time when the Spartak Moscow midfielder put Russia three up with a cool side-footed finish.
Alexander Kerzhakov converted his umpteenth chance of the evening on 70 minutes for Russia’s fourth, sliding in to tuck away Dmitry Kombarov’s cross.
The last World Cup that Russia qualified for was in Japan and South Korea in 2002, when Oleg Romantsev's side crashed out in the group stage.
Russia should have taken the lead even earlier than they did but Kerzhakov blasted over after good hold-up work from Alexander Kokorin.
Kerzhakov then glanced a free header wide on 18 minutes, but patience saw the Russians go two up with a flowing move.
Dmitry Kombarov missed with a free kick and Samedov had a controlled volley saved by Jonathan Joubert in the Luxembourg goal before Russia went three up on the stroke of half time.
Samedov had a swing-and-miss at a cross from Kerzhakov as Russia looked to put the result beyond doubt in the second half.
Luxembourg had a rare effort on goal through Stefano Bensi on the hour mark, but the midfielder ballooned his long-range strike over Igor Akinfeev’s crossbar.
At the other end Kerzhakov headed yet another effort wide after taking considerable time to line it up.
The hosts missed a glaring opportunity on 68 minutes when substitute Ben Payal failed to connect with Bensi’s cross from the right just three yards out and with the goal at his mercy.
Normal service was resumed with Kerzhakov’s 24th international goal 20 minutes from time.
The Russians nearly conceded in injury time but Akinfeev got down smartly to deny Chris Phillips from close range.
Luxembourg: Jonathan Joubert, Mathias Jaenisch, Lars Gerson, Daniela Da Mota (Yannick Bastos, 62), Stefano Bensi, Tom Laterza, Chris Philipps, Mario Mutsch, Laurent Jans, David Turpel (Ben Payal, 30), Antonio Luisi (Massimo Martino, 76).
Russia: Igor Akinfeev, Alexei Kozlov, Vasily Berezutsky, Vladimir Granat, Dmitry Kombarov (Georgy Shchennikov, 85), Denis Glushakov, Alexander Samedov, Viktor Faizulin, Roman Shirokov, Alexander Kokorin (Yuri Zhirkov, 46, (Vladimir Bystrov, 65)), Alexander Kerzhakov.