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Page last updated at 21:55 GMT, Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Portugal secure spot at World Cup

Jose Raul Meireles (left) celebrates scoring for Portugal
Portugal's victory means that Cristiano Ronaldo should be at the World Cup

Portugal, Slovenia and Greece won their respective play-off ties to book their places at the 2010 World Cup.

Jose Raul Meireles scored as Portugal defeated Bosnia-Hercegovina 1-0 in Zenica for a 2-0 aggregate win.

Russia won their first leg 2-1 but Zlatko Dedic's deftly taken goal gave Slovenia a 1-0 second-leg win and victory on the away goals rule.

Dimitris Salpigidis scored the only goal of the tie as Greece defeated Ukraine in Donetsk.

Portugal struggled in their group, finishing second to Denmark, but despite the absence of the injured Cristiano Ronaldo booked their place in South Africa with a deserved play-off victory.

"These marathons are only over after the final whistle and I want to thank my players for showing such spirit," said coach Carlos Queiroz.

After winning the first leg 1-0 in Lisbon, Queiroz's side almost took the lead before the break in Zenica but Kenan Hasagic denied Meireles with a superb reflex save.

We won, we are through and we are happy

Portugal goalscorer Jose Raul Meireles

The keeper made another excellent save from Nani after the restart but was powerless to prevent Meireles from side-footing home after Simao Sabrosa laid the ball into his path.

"Our play and our attitude were the most important things out there," said Meireles.

"The pitch was cutting up badly and it was not always possible to play well - but we won, we are through and we are happy. We always believed in ourselves."

Bosnia's evening further deteriorated when Sejad Salihovic was sent off for dissent after 76 minutes.

"It is difficult to comfort the boys," said Bosnia coach Miroslav Blazevic said. "They are devastated. But this is a young team and has potential to develop."

Slovenia, ranked 49th in the world, pulled off a shock result to defeat Guus Hiddink's Russia.

"My guys became immortal," said Slovenia coach Matjaz Kek.

Defender Bojan Jokic added: "We were simply better - all of Slovenia is with us."

Dedic, who later missed a good chance to clinch the tie, struck with the decisive goal just before the break, converting Valter Birsa's cross as Slovenia reached the World Cup finals for the second time.

Slovenia had created plenty of chances prior to scoring, with keeper Igor Akinfeev denying Milivoje Novakovic while an Andraz Kirm cross struck the leg of Sergei Ignashevich and rebounded off the Russia post.

It's a massive success for us - we have answered our critics

Greece goalscorer Dimitris Salpigidis

On a terrible evening for Russia, substitute Alexander Kerzhakov was dismissed after 66 minutes following a lunge on Slovenia keeper Samir Handanovic while Yuri Zhirkov also saw red in stoppage time.

Russia had dominated the first leg but Nejc Pencnik scored what proved to be a crucial late goal in Moscow.

Greece's Salpigidis slotted home after a precise through ball from Giorgios Samaras to seal their first appearance at the World Cup finals since 1994.

"It's a massive success for us. It's a day of celebration for Greeks all over the world," said Salpigidis.

"All those people who have made negative comments during these past few days now have their answer from what we have done on the pitch. We have answered our critics."

Greece sensationally won Euro 2004 in Portugal but failed to qualify for the 2006 World Cup.

Their last appearance in a major finals was at Euro 2008, where they lost all of their group games, scoring just one goal.

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They might have fallen behind in Ukraine but former Chelsea striker Andriy Shevchenko shot over the crossbar.

Samaras headed wide from a Giorgos Karagounis free-kick for the visiting team before Oleksandr saw a free-kick saved by Greek goalkeeper Alexandros Tzorvas.

The see-saw opening continued when Salpigidis miskicked with only the keeper to beat but he atoned for the miss with his goal, slotting a low shot beyond Andriy Piatov and into the bottom corner.

Ukraine needed to score twice to win the tie and dominated most of the second half.

But Greece's Panathinaikos keeper Tzorvas denied Aliev, Shevchenko and Yevgev Seleznov while Anatoliy Tymoshchuk missed from 18 yards.



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see also
Who has qualified for South Africa 2010?
19 Nov 09 |  Internationals
World Cup qualifying as it happened
18 Nov 09 |  Football
France 1-1 Rep of Ire (agg 2-1)
18 Nov 09 |  Internationals
Uruguay take last World Cup spot
19 Nov 09 |  Internationals
Yahia sends Algeria to World Cup
18 Nov 09 |  African
World Cup play-offs round-up
15 Nov 09 |  Internationals


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