Vangelis Moras of Greece, left, fights for the ball with Artem Milevskiy of Ukraine during Saturday's game. ((Thanassis Stavrakis/Associated Press))

Ukraine and Greece battled to a 0-0 draw in Athens Saturday in the opening leg of their two-game playoff series to see who advances to next year's World Cup in South Africa.

The second game in the series will take place Wednesday in Donetsk (CBC Bold,, 11:55 am ET).

A victory by either team in that match would allow them to stamp their passport for South Africa. Greece would also secure qualification if they score in Donetsk and the game ends in a draw.

Both teams started out cautiously, before Ukraine carved out the first scoring chance of the game in the 19th minute when Ruslan Rotan sent his shot wide of the post.

Ukraine came close to scoring again, but Oleg Gusev was denied by Greek goalkeeper Alexandros Tzorvas in the 35th minute.

That seemed to wake up the home team, as the Greeks began to press and nearly notched a goal just before the end of the half. Theofanis Gekas sent a dangerous header on goal, but Ukraine's goalkeeper made a fantastic diving save.

It was more of the same in the second half, with both teams playing conservatively and producing few moments of danger.

A long-range shot by Vasyl Kobin sailed just over Tzorvas' crossbar in the 77th minute, and Greece came within inches of winning it when Sotirios Kyrgiakos's header whispered by the post in injury time.

Also on Saturday, Dinyar Bilyaletdinov scored twice to give Russia a 2-1 victory over Slovenia in Moscow.

Nejc Pecnik scored a key road goal in the 87th minute for Slovenia, however, to give them hope as the series shifts to Maribor on Wednesday.

In Dublin, France recorded a 1-0 win over Ireland thanks to a Nicolas Anelka goal in the 72nd minute, giving Les Bleus the advantage ahead of next Wednesday's return leg in Saint-Denis.

Anelka's shot from just outside the 18-yard box deflected off Irish defender Sean St. Ledger and skipped pasy goalkeeper Shay Given and into the net.

In Lisbon, Bruno Alves's goal in the 31st minute was enough to lift Portugal to a 1-0 win over Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Portuguese winger Cristiano Ronaldo, the reigning FIFA world player of the year, watched the game from a private box due to an ankle injury. The Real Madrid star is expected to miss the second leg of the series in Zenica next Wednesday.