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Poldi and Ribéry on target

FCB stars set course for South Africa

Bayern’s European internationals came away with a haul of two goals, three wins and two draws on a positive first matchday in this week’s 2010 World Cup qualifying double header. Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium all picked up three points, France and Italy secured valuable away draws, and Lukas Podolski and Franck Ribéry found the net.

The Germans ran a roller-coaster of emotion in a tight 2-1 victory over Russia in front of a 65,607 crowd in Dortmund. Coach Joachim Löw’s men produced a scintillating first-half display and led 2-0 at the break after goals from Podolski (9) and former FCB man Michael Ballack (28), who profited from a sublime Bastian Schweinsteiger assist. The roles were reversed in the second half after Andrej Arshavin pulled one back on 51 minutes, but an 88th-minute shot off the post was the nearest the unlucky visitors came to snatching a point.

Four Bayern starters

“That was one of the best halves of football we’ve played,” Podolski said afterwards. “We had a few chances to make it 3-1 but failed to take them, which is why it was tense right to the end,” added Philipp Lahm, who together with Miroslav Klose was part of a Bayern quartet included in the starting line-up.

The Euro 2008 runners-up now lead Group 4 on seven points from three matches, ahead of Wales (6) and Finland (4), although the Finns have played a game less. Russia lie fourth with three points from two fixtures. The Germans now face the Welsh in Mönchengladbach on Wednesday, where they can take another crucial step towards a place at the 2010 finals in South Africa. “The important thing now is to follow this up on Wednesday,“ Lahm declared.