Kobe, Japan: Russia scored two goals within five minutes in the second half to defeat upstart Tunisia 2-0 in Group H of the World Cup Wednesday. Egor Titov scored on a right-footed blast in the 59th minute and Valery Karpin finished off a penalty kick in the 64th as the Russians won their first major international match since 1996. Both teams opened with early approaches on goal at the 42,000-capacity Kobe Wing stadium as Tunisian goalkeeper Ali Boumnijel backpedaled to punch away a free kick from Russia's Valery Karpin. The Russian attack improved as the first half wore on, testing a sprited, but inexperienced Tunisian team coached by Frenchman Henri Michel, who has guided four different teams to the World Cup. Hassen Gabsi thought he had given Tunisia the lead in the 52nd minute, but an offsides call nullified his right-footed shot that had found the back of the net.
The Tunisian attack lacked cohesion early on but improved in the second half. But the Russians created more opportunities and took advantage of them.
Russia is appearing in the World Cup finals for the ninth time after failing to qualify for the past two tournaments. Russian coach Oleg Romantsev has said he will step quit if the team does not advance to the second round.
Tunisia, meanwhile, is one of five African teams among this year's finalists. Their last World Cup victory was in 1978. In France four years ago, the Tunisians finished with one point in three matches, scoring one goal.
The North Africans are making their third World Cup appearance after an undefeated qualifying run. Their success, however, was tempered by a first round ouster at this year's African Nations Cup.
In earlier Group H play, Japan and Belgium tied 2-2 Tuesday.
Russia: 1-Ruslan Nigmatullin, 2-Yuri Kovtun, 3-Yuri Nikiforov, 5-Andrei Solomatin, 6-Igor Semshov (Dmitry Khokhlov, 46), 7-Viktor Onopko(c), 8-Valery Karpin, 9-Egor Titov, 11-Vladimir Beschastnykh (Dmitri Sychev, 55), 19-Ruslan Pimenov, 20-Marat Izmailov (Dmitry Alenichev, 78.)
Tunisia: 1-Ali Boumnijel, 2-Khaled Badra, 4-Mohamed Mkacher, 5-Ziad Jaziri, 6-Hatem Trabelsi, 8-Hassene Gabsi (Imed Mhadhbi, 67), 11-Adel Sellimi(c) (Zoubeir Baya, 67), 12-Raouf Bouzaiene, 13-Riadh Bouazizi,
15-Radhi Jaidi, 18-Slim Ben Achour.
Referee: Peter Prendergast (Jamaica)
|Goals||Titov, 59th minute. Karpin 64th (penaltly kick).|
|Shots at goal||16||6|
|Shots on goal||8||2|
|Yellow cards||Semshov, 27th; Alenichev, 88th.||Gabsi, 50th; Jaziri, 75th.|
Topics : Football