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Russians relying on fortress of Moscow

IT'S BEEN A CASE of Fortress Moscow for more than 50 years -- and Russian striker Pavel Pogrebnyak firmly believes that home advantage will see Russia triumph once again against Ireland tonight, writes Aidan Fitzmaurice.

Moscow first hosted a competitive international in 1957, when the USSR beat the Peoples Republic of Poland 3-0.

From then up until 1998, when France beat Russia in the city, Moscow was an impossible place for anyone else to win.

They've since lost a couple of home qualifiers, against Germany (2009) and Slovakia (last year), but German-based striker Pogrebnyak expects more of the same tonight.

"Playing at home is a big advantage for us. The surroundings are familiar and, of course, there are the fans that support us. We have to make the most of this situation and win the match," the Stuttgart striker told the Evening Herald in Moscow.


"Apparently, we can benefit more than other teams from the familiar surroundings and our fans' support. I hope Moscow will be a fortress for us again on Tuesday.

"We can beat Ireland and we can finish first in our group. I'm confident that we will make it," added Pogrebnyak, who says that Russia will draw confidence from their superb 3-2 win over Ireland in Dublin 11 months ago.

"It was one of our best matches. I have very strong and good memories of that night. Because of the match itself but also because of the Irish fans.

"They created a very special and fantastic atmosphere. And the Irish team rewarded them with huge fighting spirit. They never gave up.

"Friday against Macedonia definitely wasn't our best match.

"Maybe we weren't focused enough. But we won -- in the end that's the only thing that really matters," he added.