MOSCOW, May 26 (Reuters) - Russia started their preparations for the World Cup with a workmanlike 1-0 victory over Slovakia in St Petersburg on Monday with substitute Alexander Kerzhakov heading the only goal of the game eight minutes from time.
Fabio Capello chose a strong starting line-up, with seven almost certain to be in the first 11 for Russia's opening World Cup game against South Korea in Cuiaba on June 17.
The opening 15 minutes set the tempo for the game, with the Russians clearly not wanting to risk injury ahead of their first World Cup appearance in 12 years, while the Slovaks already had one eye on their summer holidays after missing out on qualification.
Alan Dzagoev, who has been a peripheral figure under Capello looked bright, while Miroslav Stoch was industrious for the visitors, but neither goalkeeper was seriously tested in the first 45 minutes.
The second half had even less rhythm to it, as both head coaches made numerous substitutions.
Alexander Kokorin thought he had put Russian in front after latching onto a glorious through ball by Sergei Ignashevich before lifting the ball over Jan Mucha.
However, the Dynamo Moscow forward was adjudged to have been marginally offside.
With the match petering out into a draw, substitute Kerzhakov headed Russia into the lead when he was left completely unmarked meeting Maxim Kanunnikov's inviting cross to send a header past the stranded Mucha.
"At the moment, it is vital to get the team fit," Capello said. "Our training sessions were very intense last week, so the footballers were not in peak condition.
"I thought we were well organised in defence and that is very important. In terms of our attack, I am sure that we can play better. We needed to move it quicker."
"I am really happy that no one picked up an injury."
Russia will continue their World Cup preparations with a friendly in Oslo against Norway on May 31 and play their final warm-up game against Morocco at home on June 6, before departing for Brazil the following day.
After Capello's men open their World Cup Group H campaign against South Korea they meet Belgium and Algeria. (Reporting by Dmitriy Rogovitskiy in Moscow; editing by Martyn Herman)
- Sports & Recreation
- Fabio Capello
- Alexander Kerzhakov