London: Russia started their World Cup countdown with a 1-0 win over Slovakia while Australia were held to a 1-1 draw by South Africa as the finalists began their preparations in earnest on Monday with the start of the tournament just 17 days away.
Fabio Capello picked a strong team for their win over Slovakia in St Petersburg with Zenit St Petersburg forward Alexander Kerzhakov heading the only goal eight minutes from time.
Alexander Kokorin thought he had put Russia in front after latching on to a glorious through ball by Sergei Ignashevich before lifting the ball over goalkeeper Jan Mucha but English referee Mark Clattenburg ruled the Dynamo Moscow was offside.
Australia showed few signs that they might buck their underdog status at the World Cup as they struggled to a tepid 1-1 draw against an under-strength South Africa in Syndey.
More than 50,000 turned out at the Olympic Stadium to bid farewell to the Socceroos before they depart for the finals but the home side laboured to break down Bafana Bafana.
Both the goals came inside a minute early in the first half with Ayanda Patosi`s 13th-minute effort for South Africa cancelled out by Australia`s stand-in captain and leading international goalscorer Tim Cahill.
Australia face world champions Spain, 2010 runners-up the Netherlands Chile in Brazil.