Russian football chief happy with World Cup draw

MOSCOW, July 31, 2011 (AFP) - Russian football chief Sergei Fursenko expressed his satisfaction with the 2014 World Cup draw on Sunday, adding he was confident that Russia could finish top of their qualifying group.

In the draw for the Europe zone qualifiers made in Rio de Janeiro on Saturday, Russia were handed a Group F slot along with Portugal, Israel, Northern Ireland, Azerbaijan and Luxembourg.

"We should finish top of our group," Russia Football Union (RFU) chief Fursenko told the local press.

"I'm absolutely sure we will fulfill this task. If we want to show serious results in the final stages of serious tournaments we have to overcome any opponent in the qualifying stage."

Sports and Tourism Minister Vitaly Mutko also believes Russia got a favourable draw.

"The draw was not bad for our team," Mutko said. "We should definitely fight for the group's first place. With all respect for our opponents we are capable of winning the top spot."

However nationanl coach Dick Advocaat warned his players against underestimating their rivals particularly Israel and Northern Ireland.

"Of course Portugal and Russia are the group's favourites," he said. "But Israel and Northern Ireland are serious rivals who are hungry and ready to defeat any of their opponents.

"However, we all count on our team's successful performance and hope that Russia will win the place in the World Cup finals."

Goalkeeper Vyacheslav Malafeyev also classed Israel among the group favourites.

"We've got a very interesting group, bringing together teams with different styles," Malafeyev said. "Portugal, Russia and Israel will all target direct qualification. But Northern Ireland and Azerbaijan are capable of upsetting any of the favourites."

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