Russia face Portugal test in World Cup qualifiers

The 2014 World Cup has officially begun for Russia, with Dick Advocaat’s men being drawn with Portugal, Israel, Northern Ireland, Azerbaijan and Luxemburg in qualifying Group F.

All the opponents are old acquaintances for Russia, who surely haven’t forgotten the 1-7 debacle against Portugal in Lisbon in autumn 2004, or the 11-year winless streak against Israel.

Striker Pavlyuchenko says qualifying group is pay-back time

“It looks like fate has given us a good chance to pay back those who have hurt Russia recently and to take revenge for the 1-7 catastrophe against Portugal in 2006, to erase perhaps the worst memories after our loss in Tel-Aviv in 2007, and at the same time to take out our frustration after the latest draw in Baku. Only Slovenia and Slovakia are missing, but Russia was in the same pot with both, so it was impossible,” Roman Pavlyuchenko told Sport-Express newspaper soon after the draw was completed.

Defending world champions Spain have been drawn with 1998 winners and 2006 runners-up France, Georgia, Belarus and Finland in “the European group of death.”

Former Brazilian star Ronaldo, who picked the balls from the top three pots, pitted England with Ukraine and Poland in Group H – another strong line-up.

Italy will need to be close to their best against Denmark and the Czech Republic in Group B.

Germany’s opponents in Group C will include Sweden, Austria and Ireland.

Group A will see two big rivalries – the Balkan one between Serbia and Croatia, and the British – Scotland vs Wales.

Meanwhile, groups E and G apparently have no favorites as at least three teams in each group – Norway, Slovenia, Switzerland in E – and Greece, Slovakia, Bosnia Herzegovina in G – have fairly similar chances of making it to the final stages in Brazil.

The winners of each European group will be shown the green light for the World Cup 2014. The runners-up with the worse record will be eliminated, while the other eight will be drawn in play-offs to decide the four remaining European participants.

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