DUBAI (Reuters) - Fabio Capello's Russia began the countdown to next year's World Cup with a mediocre display as they drew 1-1 against Serbia in the first of two friendlies in five days in the United Arab Emirates.
Russia took the lead on the half-hour against the run of play when midfielder Alexander Samedov pounced on the rebound after keeper Vladimir Stojkovic could only parry Roman Shirokov's shot from the edge of the area.
The Serbians, who failed to qualify for the World Cup to be held in Brazil in June, leveled two minutes later when Filip Djordjevic headed in a left-wing cross from Dusan Tadic.
Capello's side upped the tempo in the second half and Alexander Kokorin missed two good scoring opportunities.
Serbia, for their part, always looked a threat on the counter-attack.
Capello employed a 4-5-1 formation featuring two wide players in midfield and a lone striker in Alexander Kokorin, who only joined the squad in Dubai on Thursday after losing his passport.
"I had to look at the players and try some things," Capello told a news conference. "I'm pleased with what I saw.
"The Serbians are very strong physically, they're well-organised but still we managed to create a lot of scoring chances."
Capello, who rested some of his regulars and tested several back-up players, said that striker Alexander Kerzhakov missed the match after sustaining an injury in training.
"Alexander suffered a (thigh) injury," the Italian said. "Tomorrow, most likely, he will return to St. Petersburg."
Russia play South Korea, ranked 56th in the world, at the same venue on Tuesday.
(Writing by Angel Krasimirov; editing by Tony Jimenez and Stephen Wood)