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Favorites go unbeaten in opening legs of European World Cup playoffs

Nicolas Anelka (Getty Images)

France, Russia and Portugal posted crucial first-leg victories in their UEFA World Cup qualifying playoff matches, but all three still have plenty of work to do in the second legs to ensure qualifying for South Africa.

Nicolas Anelka scored in France's 1-0 win vs. Ireland in Dublin, giving the French the lead and an away goal in its match-up. The Irish must now beat France on Wednesday in France. A 1-0 win would force overtime, while any other victory would send Ireland through.

Russia disposed of Slovenia, 2-1, but Slovenia's 88th minute goal could prove costly to Guus Hiddink's men as they head to Slovenia for Wednesday's return leg.

Portugal held serve at home, posting a 1-0 victory against Bosnia-Herzegovina courtesy of a Bruno Alves goal. Bosnia will now need to beat Portugal by a 1-0 margin in the return leg to force overtime, or must win by two goals to advance.

Greece saw its chances for reaching the World Cup take a hit after being held scoreless by Ukraine in Greece. Now the Ukrainians can advance with a win at home on Wednesday, while a score draw or road victory would send the Greeks through.

What did you think of Saturday's UEFA World Cup playoff matches? Impressed with France's performance? Think Portugal will hold on? Surprised Russia only beat Slovenia by a goal?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. No, there’s a key difference. The rest of the Irish team is sane…

    You forget the whole incident with him leaving the team before a qualifier because “his grandmother died”, only to find a few days later that his grandmothers were, in fact, alive?

    I don’t think Stevie I has the motivation to play and give his all for Ireland.

  2. I’m not writing off Ireland yet… France had a miserable qualifying campaign, after all. Didn’t they lose at home to Scotland? I rate Ireland higher than Scotland. Anything is possible at 1-0. I fancy Ireland because they have it all to play for, while France has all the pressure and expectation. If Ireland works as hard as they did Saturday, and they get the crowd frustrated at France’s play, who knows?

    That said, Ireland have no business beating France, comparing the payrolls.

  3. Russia should go through, but that away goal will give Slovenia hope.

    France should be able to see off the Republic.

    Greece vs Ukraine- I think Ukraine might just shade it in Donetsk on Wednesday,

  4. The powers are showing why they are powers. Argentina, when it came right down to it a few weeks ago, got it done, same for Portugal, France, and Russia today.

    Slovenia has to win 3-1 at home, not likely, or they’re out. France is not likely to lose at home to Ireland either. Bosnia is the only team with a legit chance of taking out the favorite because they’re only a goal down and get to play at home next.

    Ukraine/Greece is still a toss up.

  5. don’t know where to post this….did anyone catch dolo drag himself off the pitch (holding his knee) at the end of the USA match?? Ives, any word if he is seriously injured?

  6. The luck of the Irish. They outplayed France completely in the first half, and had their chances in the second. Some very debatable calls as well, and a scuffle at the end of the game. Croke Park was shaking.

    Bosnia had their chances and I still like them to pull off the upset at home.


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