Genk: Russia started their World Cup countdown with a 1-0 win over Slovakia while Australia were held to a 1-1 draw by South Africa as the finalists began their preparations in earnest on Monday with the start of the tournament.
Belgium, tipped by many to make a big impression in Brazil, were also in action, crushing Luxembourg 5-1. They won for the first time in five matches on Monday as Romelu Lukaku hit a hat-trick.
Fabio Capello picked a strong team for their win over Slovakia in St Petersburg with Zenit St Petersburg forward Alexander Kerzhakov heading the only goal eight minutes from time.
Alexander Kokorin thought he had put Russia in front after latching on to a glorious through ball by Sergei Ignashevich before lifting the ball over goalkeeper Jan Mucha but English referee Mark Clattenburg ruled it out for offside.
Australia showed few signs that they might buck their underdog status at the World Cup as they struggled to a tepid 1-1 draw against an under-strength South Africa in Sydney.
Both the goals came inside a minute early in the first half with Ayanda Patosi’s 13th-minute effort for South Africa cancelled out by Australia’s stand-in captain and leading international goalscorer Tim Cahill.