Russia have booked their place in the finals of the 2008 FIFA Futsal World Cup in Brazil after a 1-1 draw in Schelkovo completed a 6-2 aggregate play-off win against Belarus.
Beaten 5-1 in the first leg, Belarus came to Russia without two of their top players, with captain Vladimir Levus suspended and striker Sergei Kuznetsov injured. Naturalised Brazilians Cirilo and Pele Junior were unavailable for Russia and were replaced by youngsters Danil Kutuzov and Dmitri Lyskov, who will both play for the hosts at the UEFA European Under-21 Futsal Tournament in St Petersburg frm 6-14 December.
Having missed out on the World Cup four years ago but reached the previous two semi-finals, Russia were the stronger side in the second leg, but were nonetheless held to a draw. Vladislav Shayakhmetov opened the scoring after 33 minutes following a quick counterattack, having also registered in the first leg in Minsk, but Aleksei Popov turned in a cross from the wing to level just three minutes later. "The game helped us find our weaknesses and show where the work still needs to be done," said Russia coach Oleg Ivanov.
Russia join holders Spain, who qualified on Saturday, in the draw in Brasilia on 6 July for the tournament from 30 September to 19 October. The other European play-offs are completed in midweek; on Tuesday Ukraine travel to Hungary 3-1 up, Romania welcome the Czech Republic with the score at 1-1 and Slovenia visit Portugal trailing 6-1, while Croatia hope to overturn a 6-3 deficit against 2004 World Cup runners-up Italy on Wednesday.
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