Bosnia pledge to spring surprise on Portuguese

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The Independent Football

Portugal v Bosnia

Shorn of Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal secured only a 1-0 victory over Bosnia on Saturday and must now negotiate what looks a very tricky second leg away from home if they are to reach the World Cup. The Bosnia coach Miroslav Blazevic, for one, believes it is a task that may prove beyond them.

Blazevic, who added that Bosnia would be more adventurous when they host Portugal at the Bilino Polje stadium, said: "It's hard to predict anything in football but we will go through in Zenica. We can't go through if we play like we did in the first leg, but the return match will be a completely different game and we will apply a new strategy to surprise Portugal.

"We deserved more from the match in Lisbon, I've never seen luck turn its back on a team like it did on us but we can turn this round."

The Bosnians, who soaked up plenty of pressure before Bruno Alves headed the winner in the 31st minute, will miss three key players in the return leg through suspension after Emir Spahic, Elvir Rahimic and Samir Muratovic were booked. "It will be a very difficult return leg because we will be short of three very important players but I hope we will have more luck than we did in the first game," the Bosnia striker Edin Dzeko said.

While the home team missed several chances, they were also let off when Bosnia hit the woodwork twice in the final minute. Liedson missed Portugal's best chance to double the lead in the second half, but Dzeko and Zlatan Muslimovic almost stunned the hosts by hitting the bar and the post in the 89th minute. "I think with the image of that moment when the ball hit the post and the bar we can recognise we were lucky," the Portugal coach, Carlos Queiroz, said. They may need a bit more luck if they are survive Wednesday night.

Russia v Slovenia

A late goal by Slovenia's Nejc Pecnik has given his side a real chance of a place in South Africa, something that had looked unlikely for much of their 2-1 defeat to Russia. And where there is hope for Slovenia, there's fear for Russia, as midfielder Sergei Semak acknowledged after the game.

"The match left me with mixed feelings," Semak said. "I'm pleased we won but the way the game ended doesn't leave you at ease."

Russia dominated throughout and led comfortably through two goals from Everton winger Diniyar Bilyaletdinov. But Pecnik's header two minutes from time left the tie in the balance, and they could even have equalised when Marko Suler forced a superb stoppage-time save from Igor Akinfeev.

Semak added: "They didn't surprise us because it was obvious that they came here with the aim of not allowing a goal. Only after we scored the second goal did they go all out."

The Slovenia coach Matjaz Kek was relieved after Pecnik's contribution. "We have found a goal that keeps us in the game," he said. "The People's Stadium [where Wednesday's match will be played] can create a positive outcome. We must recover and prepare."

Greece v Ukraine

The Greece coach Otto Rehhagel maintains his side did their utmost to win the first leg of the 2010 World Cup qualifying play-off, but praised the resilience of Ukraine in the 0-0 draw.

Theofanis Gekas, the competition's top scorer in qualifying with 10 goals, wasted Greece's best chance while Ruslan Rotan was guilty of poor finishing for the visitors at the Olympic Stadium in Athens.

Sotiris Kyrgiakos almost won the game for Greece in the dying seconds but the Liverpool defender headed wide. "The result leaves everything open," said Rehhagel. "Ukraine were impressive in their passing game and their attacking players were very good. Our opponents were strong on the counter-attack and we always had this in the back of our minds. We had some chances."

Rehhagel was pleased Greece's defence was not breached, but also lamented the decision to disallow a goal for the hosts. Greece had the ball in the net after 16 minutes when Gekas turned in Dimitris Salpigidis cross but the assistant referee had already raised his flag for offside.

"If we had conceded a goal it would have made things extremely difficult for us," added Rehhagel. "We also scored a perfectly valid goal but the referee disallowed it and we are disappointed."