Crucial moment for Russia's national soccer team

On Saturday, the Russian national soccer team meets Georgia in a decisive match of the Euro-2004 qualifying cycle.

With 11 points, Russia holds 2nd place in Group 10 before Saturday's final round. Ireland also has 11 points but it lags behind Russia on the points scored by the teams in the games played against each other. As of today, Switzerland leads the group with 12 points. Only these three squads lay claims to the two top lines in the Group's final scoreboard. The group winner automatically qualifies to the Euro-2004 Finals in Portugal. The runner-up wins the right to get into the playoffs.

If Russia led by new coach Georgy Yartsev beats Georgia, it secures at least the second place in the Group for itself. In case Switzerland fails to defeat Ireland on home turf in another crucial Saturday's match, Russia will finish the qualifying round as Group 10 winners on advantage gained in its two games against the Swiss squad.

A draw in its match against Georgia may also leave the door to Euro-2004 open for Russia. In this case, Yartsev's squad qualifies into the playoffs irrespective of the outcome of the Switzerland-Ireland game. At the same time, Switzerland may upset Russia's best hopes by beating Ireland and thus winning the first place in Group 10.

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