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.