Russia all set for Germany showdown

MOSCOW: Russia must go for broke in Saturday’s deciding qualifier with Germany as they bid to assure themselves of an automatic berth at next year’s World Cup finals.

Russia suffered their only qualifying campaign loss last year in Dortmund, losing out 2-1 to Group Four leaders Germany, but the latter themselves looked uncomfortable in dropping points in a 3-3 draw in Finland.

Germany are currently one point ahead of the Russians with two matches

remaining. If Germany win the match on Saturday they will gain their passage

to South Africa regardless of the result of their last qualifier with Finland.

Russia, meanwhile, need not only to defeat the three-time world champions but also to win their last match in Baku against fellow ex-Soviet state Azerbaijan to obtain a place in the finals. Russia’s Dutch manager Guus Hiddink said he believed his team were capable to extend their winning streak to avoid play-offs for the place in the finals. But he warned a tough task is lay ahead.

Hiddink said he was confident Germany and Russia will both play in next year’s finals regardless of the result of Saturday’s head-to-head clash. “I’m sure that both teams will play in the South Africa next year,” he said.

Russian international forward Pavel Pogrebnyak said he and his teammates would win what he termed the Match of The Year. Russia will likely form a full-strength line-up with one exception. Their full back Denis Kolodin has failed to overcome hip injury and will miss the encounter.

The group’s second-place finisher will face a play-off against one of the other eight best runners-up from the European qualifying zone. The draw for the play-offs will be made on October 19.

Cahill, Hart get call

LONDON: Goalkeeper Joe Hart and centreback Gary Cahill have won late call-ups to England’s squad for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Ukraine and Belarus. The duo replace Blackburn goalkeeper Paul Robinson  and Everton defender Joleon Lescott.

For Hart the call-up represents a chance to force his way into contention for a trip to the World Cup finals in South Africa next year.

England have already booked their place

in South Africa. Saturday’s match in the Ukraine will have a profound impact on their

hosts’ chances of

finishing as runners-up in the group. — AFP