World Cup hosts Russia held to 1-1 draw by Iran in friendly
By Gabrielle Tetrault-Farber
MOSCOW (Reuters) - World Cup hosts Russia needed a second-half equaliser from Zenit St Petersburg striker Dmitry Poloz to secure a 1-1 draw against Iran in a friendly in Kazan on Tuesday.
Russia fell behind when Iran striker Sardar Azmoun beat back-up goalkeeper Andrei Lunev in the 57th minute after Mehdi Taremi powered through the Russian backline.
Russia, however, hit back in the 74th minute, with Poloz sliding in to get a touch on cross by Alexander Samedov, beating Iranian goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand.
Russia came into the game on the back of a confidence-boosting 4-2 win against South Korea at the weekend, when they were aided by two own goals from South Korean defender Kim Ju-young.
As World Cup hosts, Russia have not had the opportunity to measure themselves against Europe's best in qualifying.
The friendly against South Korea was Russia's first international test since they exited the Confederations Cup at the group stage in June, which added to a long list of recent failures.
Russia also made an early exit at both the 2016 European Championship and the 2014 World Cup, failing to win a match in both tournaments, and they are eager to avoid embarrassment at next year's finals.
Iran, three-times Asian champions, finished first in their qualifying group for the World Cup. They will be making a fifth World Cup appearance next year.
The World Cup finals run from June 14 to July 15 in 12 venues spread across 11 cities including Moscow, St Petersburg and Sochi.
(Reporting by Gabrielle TÃ©trault-Farber; Editing by Toby Davis)