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 May 20, 2002 | 0230 IST

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Russia hit rock bottom
before World Cup

Belarus claimed a shock 2-0 upset win over Ukraine in the final of a four-team international tournament on Sunday to win the $60,000 first prize.

Belarus, considered outsiders in a tournament also involving Russia and Yugoslavia, went 1-0 ahead thanks to a 48th-minute strike by Valentin Belkevich.

Alexander Hleb sealed the victory in the 63rd minute when the Stuttgart midfielder outsprinted Ukraine captain Olexander Golovko and beat goalkeeper Olexander Shovkovsky after a brilliant 40-metre solo run.

The Ukrainians, without AC Milan striker Andriy Shevchenko, created few problems for a discipline Belarus defence.

Ukrainian players wore black armbands in memory of Dynamo Kiev coach Valery Lobanovsky, who died last Monday.


Meanwhile, Russia's World Cup hopes suffered another setback on home soil when they lost 6-5 in a penalty shootout to a makeshift Yugoslavian side in a consolation match to finish last.

Russia, who also lost to Belarus on penalties in Friday's semifinal, were met with a chorus of boos and whistles as they walked off the pitch in their last game before leaving for the World Cup.

With the score level at 1-1 after 90 minutes, the teams went straight to a shoot-out where Yugoslav keeper Dragoslav Evric saved the last penalty by Yuri Kovtun to give his side victory.

Darko Kovacevic put the visitors ahead with a low shot, which went in off the post in the 54th minute, making amends for missing a penalty in Friday's 2-0 defeat by Ukraine in the semifinals.

Eighteen-year-old striker Dmitry Sychyov saved Russia from total embarrassment when he equalised three minutes from time.

Unlike in the defeat to Belarus, Russia fielded their top team but were short on ideas and skill.

They also lost playmaker Alexander Mostovoi, who limped off the pitch after just four minutes.

The Yugoslavs, without many of their top players including captain Sinisa Mihaijlovic who was sent off for fighting at the end of Friday's semifinal, looked the better side during a first half played in driving rain and hail.

A Dejan Stankovic freekick hit the crossbar in the 20th minute and a diving header from Vladimir Ivic went just wide 10 minutes later.

Russia were the only team in the tournament to be taking part in the World Cup finals where they have been drawn in the same first-round group as Japan, Belgium and Tunisia.

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