France inch closer

Portugal, Russia score in their first leg of matches

Portugal’s Bruno Alves exults after scoring the winning goal against Bosnia in their first leg World Cup playoff match on Sunday. AFP

France, runners-up in Germany in 2006, beat Ireland 1-0 in Dublin with a late deflected goal from Nicolas Anelka, and start as favourites to finish the job in Paris on Wednesday.
Portugal beat Bosnia 1-0 in Lisbon with defender Bruno Alves heading the only goal in the first half, while two goals from Diniyar Bilyaletdinov put Russia 2-0 up against Slovenia who scored a vital away goal three minutes from time when substitute Nejc Pecnik headed home to make the final score 2-1.

Greece and Ukraine drew 0-0 in the first leg of their playoff in Athens, with Ukraine now favourites to take control of the tie at home in Donetsk on Wednesday.  Uruguay seized the advantage in the South American/CONCACAF playoff with a 22nd minute goal by Diego Lugano to give them a 1-0 victory in Costa Rica and head back to the Centenario stadium in Montevideo on Wednesday.

In Africa, Nigeria and Cameroon qualified for the finals but Egypt and Algeria must play off in Sudan on Wednesday after finishing with identical records in their qualifying group.
In a match of unrelenting drama in Cairo, Egypt beat Algeria 2-0 with their second, vital goal coming in the fifth minute of stoppage time with Algeria just seconds away from the finals.

Deflected shot

France dominated for much of the match in front of 80,000 fans at Croke Park and went in front 18 minutes from time when Anelka's shot took a deflection off Sean St Ledger and left goalkeeper Shay Given helpless.

Striker Bilyaletdinov scored on either side of halftime and put the Russians in control over Slovenia in Moscow and in sight of their 10th World Cup finals appearance, including those made by the Soviet Union. But Pecnik's late header gave the visitors real hopes of salvaging the tie in Maribor on Wednesday.

Nigeria clinched their place when they came from behind to beat Kenya 3-2 in Nairobi with Obafemi Martins scoring twice to give them victory and allow them to snatch top place in African Group B from Tunisia.

The North Africans topped the standings at the start of the day but lost 1-0 to Mozambique and were eliminated.

Cameroon qualified for their sixth World Cup, a record for an African nation with a 2-0 Group A win in Morocco with Achille Webo and captain Samuel Eto'o scoring.

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