Aleksandr Kerzhakov struck three minutes after coming on as Russia opened their FIFA World Cup account with a 1-1 draw against South Korea.
Surprisingly overlooked as Fabio Capello opted for Aleksandr Kokorin in his starting XI, Kerzhakov showed his striker's instinct when a clearance ricocheted off Andrei Eschenko 16 minutes from time. He was on it in a flash, swivelling round and driving in, much to the relief of Igor Akinfeev, who had a moment to forget when he conceded Keun-Ho Lee's opening goal six minutes earlier. Neither side could find a winner.
The first half was as close as the atmosphere in Cuiaba. With the early evening temperature at 28C and humidity nudging 80%, there was an energy-conserving low tempo, more about precision than perspiration. South Korea showed greater intent, with some nice touches from Son Heung-Min in particular, but it was Russia who managed the solitary shot on target before the interval, a low Sergei Ignashevich free-kick from 30 metres.
That came on 32 minutes; it took less than 32 seconds of the second period for Viktor Fayzulin to work the goalkeeper – albeit, not overly hard – with a hopeful effort from distance. It became a familiar pattern in a more energetic half, with both teams showing intent, manoeuvring the ball to 20-25 metres out before trying their luck. Neither goalkeeper looked wholly convincing, and on 68 minutes the ploy brought the breakthrough.
Advancing from halfway, Lee let fly with a shot well-struck but straight at Akinfeev, who contrived to fumble the ball over his shoulder and into the net. Kerzhakov promptly came to the rescue and a draw leaves the sides two points adrift of Belgium, earlier victors over Algeria, in Group H.
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|1||Igor Akinfeev (GK)||1||Jung Sung-Ryong (GK)|
|4||Sergei Ignashevich||3||Suk-young Yun|
|9||Aleksandr Kokorin||9||Son Heung-Min|
|14||Vasili Berezutski (C)||10||Park Ju-Young|
|13||Koo Ja-Cheol (C)|
|19||Aleksandr Samedov||14||Han Kook-Young|
|20||Viktor Fayzulin||16||Ki Sung-Yong|
|22||Andrei Eschenko||17||Lee Chung-Yong|
|23||Dmitri Kombarov||20||Hong Jeon-ho|
|12||Yuri Lodygin (GK)||21||Seung-Gyu Kim (GK)|
|16||Sergei Ryzhikov (GK)||23||Beom-Yung Lee (GK)|
|2||Aleksei Kozlov||2||Changsoo Kim|
|3||Georgi Schennikov||4||Tae-Hwi Kwak|
|5||Andrei Semenov||6||Seok-Ho Hwang|
|6||Maksim Kanunnikov||7||Kim Bo-Kyung|
|13||Vladimir Granat||18||Shin-Wook Kim|
|15||Pavel Mogilevets||19||Ji Dong-won|
|21||Aleksei Ionov||22||Park Joo Ho|
|Fabio Capello (ITA)||Myung-Bo Hong (KOR)|
|Néstor Pittana (ARG)|
|Hernan Maidana (ARG), Juan Pablo Belatti (ARG)|
|Roberto Moreno (PAN)|