Vaeluaga Steve Jackson has emphasised the importance of consistency in team selection after confirming Chris Vui will captain Samoa in their Rugby World Cup clash with Russia.

Samoa are without captain Jack Lam, who is injured, for their opening Pool A encounter in Kumagaya City on Tuesday.

Jackson has kept faith with the majority of the side which started a 34-15 defeat to Australia in Samoa's final warm-up match, with Vui one of five changes.

"The players that have been selected deserve their selection, especially after the Australian game," Jackson said.

"Some players really put their hands up and that was what it was all about really. We want to keep consistency within the group and especially the starting fifteen.

"I think we've done that - barring a few in the front row who deserve their opportunity after the Australian test."

Russia were defeated 30-10 by hosts Japan in the World Cup's opening match, though Lyn Jones has made no changes.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Russia - Kirill Golosnitskiy

Centre Golosnitskiy will always have the memory of scoring the first try in the 2019 World Cup. The 25-year-old also completed 90 per cent of his tackles as Russia were forced to defend for long periods after making such a fast start against Japan.

Samoa - Tim Nanai-Williams

Nanai-Williams, the cousin of Sonny Bill Williams, is perhaps the most notable name in the Samoa squad, having switched international allegiance from New Zealand. In a contest that Samoa will expect to win, the 30-year-old has the potential to have a decisive say on proceedings.

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Russia are still searching for a first Rugby World Cup victory, they lost all four of their games at the 2011 edition as well as the opening match of the 2019 tournament.

- Samoa have won only four of their last 18 Tests heading into the 2019 Rugby World Cup, losing each of their last three fixtures.

- Samoan duo Christopher Vui (13) and Kane Leaupepe (10) won more line-outs (including steals) than any other players during the 2019 Pacific Nations Cup.

- Kirill Golosnitskiy's fifth-minute try for Russia against Japan on Friday was the quickest try in the opening game at a World Cup, beating Israel Dagg's score in the 11th minute for New Zealand against Tonga in 2011.

- Ed Fidow of Samoa has scored eight tries in eight Tests since making his debut in June 2018 - Samoa enjoy a 60 per cent win rate when he has crossed (W3, L2).

Japan coach Jamie Joseph acknowledged the pressure of hosting the Rugby World Cup led to a nervous performance from his side against Russia.

Tournament hosts Japan won 30-10 in the opening match on Friday, though trailed for much of the first half following Kirill Golosnitskiy's early try.

Kotaro Matsushima stole the show with a hat-trick, however, edging Japan in front prior to the interval having previously reduced the deficit, before rounding off the victory in the second half.

But Brave Blossoms coach Joseph conceded Japan found it hard to cope with the pressure in Tokyo.

"The game showed that the boys were nervous, as we spoke about before the game, there's so much expectation on the guys," said Joseph, who replaced current England coach Eddie Jones as Japan's boss.

"I thought we prepared well for it but it's not until you get out there amongst it and then you realise just how much pressure there is on the guys.

"I'm proud of the way they came through it in the end. We made a lot of unforced errors, our kicking game was pretty poor tonight so we’ll have to fix that up quickly.

"But you’ve got to take your hat off to the Russian guys because they really took it to us and put us under a lot of pressure.

"Tactically we didn't change a lot. We managed to take the sting out of the Russian offence, they looked a little bit tired and we just managed to execute a bit better and took our chances."

Japan captain Michael Leitch echoed Joseph's sentiments, though believes the Brave Blossoms are now well prepared to face the world's number one side Ireland next up in Pool A.

"Straight away they put us under some extreme pressure with their gameplan and physicality, they really tested us," Leitch said.

"There were big nerves, 100 per cent. First game out of the way and we can start looking forward to Ireland.

"I'm happy, we showed great resilience to not go into our shell and keep playing. I think we're in the right spot to take on Ireland."

Kotaro Matsushima scored a superb hat-trick as hosts Japan overcame a brief first-half scare to beat Russia 30-10 in the Rugby World Cup opener.

The home side made a sloppy start and consequently trailed to 20th-ranked Russia and Kirill Golosnitskiy's converted try for much of the opening period in Tokyo.

But Matsushima, having already reduced the arrears, edged Japan in front just before the half-time whistle and set up a far more straightforward second period.

Pieter Labuschagne went alone for a powerful third try and then Matsushima secured a potentially precious bonus point, becoming the first Japanese player to score a World Cup treble.

A long way from the procession that would follow, the nervy Brave Blossoms had been punished inside five minutes as William Tupou completely misjudged Vasily Artemyev's high kick and allowed Golosnitskiy to steal in for the opening try.

But the hosts kept their cool and responded in fine fashion, with Timothy Lafaele and Yutaka Nagare combining stylishly to open up space for Matsushima to dart through on the right.

It looked as though Russia might get to the break with a narrow lead still intact when Matsushima saw a second try struck off, having lost control of the ball as he lunged for the line under a tackle from Artemyev.

However, the Japan finisher made no mistake on the stroke of half-time, being found wide open to sprint in for a vital score.

Yu Tamura dispatched a simple penalty shortly after the restart to stretch Japan's advantage, before a brutal Labuschagne try followed as he ripped the ball from Andrey Ostrikov and streaked clear.

A gutsy Russia display was rewarded with three points from the boot of Yury Kushnarev, but Tamura hit back with a penalty of his own and Matsushima slalomed through to wrap up victory after Artemyev gifted away a tired kick.

 

FIFTH-MINUTE FRIGHT FOR HOSTS

Japan kicked off their 2015 campaign with one of the biggest shocks in World Cup history when they downed South Africa, but it was they who had to fend off an upset this time. The pressure of playing as hosts appeared to get to them as they were penned in early on and, having escaped when one kick was charged down, Tupou's fumble let Russia through.

MATSUSHIMA THE MAN FOR JAPAN

Russia had opportunities on the counter-attack later in the first half, yet they lacked a man as clinical as Matsushima. The Sunwolves star repeatedly got himself into space on the right wing and his pace took him away from recovering opponents for a pair of crucial scores before the interval, adding gloss with a late third.

WHAT'S NEXT?

Having successfully negotiated this potential banana skin, Japan have a week off before returning to their traditional role as underdogs for a highly anticipated clash with Ireland. Russia face Samoa next.

It may not prove to be the case in the long run, but New Zealand feel a little vulnerable going into the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

Having failed to win this year's shortened version of the Rugby Championship, the All Blacks are no longer the top-ranked side prior to the tournament in Japan.

Admittedly, they have not suffered a World Cup defeat since 2007, when they were stunned by France in a quarter-final in Cardiff. Their pedigree, plus their strength in depth, means Steve Hansen's side deserve to be considered the favourites.

Still, there is a glimmer of hope for the rest of the rugby heavyweights. The question is: who is best placed to dethrone the champions? 

 

1. SOUTH AFRICA

Could the Springboks be peaking at just the right time? They won the Rugby Championship for the fourth time this year and, after a shocking start against Japan, came as close as any nation to ending New Zealand's march towards a second straight World Cup in 2015. An early crack at the All Blacks in their Pool B opener will give them the chance to land a potentially telling blow. Also, the Boks ruled the world in 1995 and 2007. Now, 12 years on from their previous success, will the trend be repeated? They deserve to be viewed as the main contenders to the defending champions.

2. ENGLAND

It cannot possibly go any worse than four years ago, right? Eddie Jones – who was in charge of the Japan team that upset the Boks in Brighton in 2015 – is at the helm and the schedule has aided their campaign, as they have Tonga and the United States in their opening two fixtures in Pool C, giving them a chance to iron out any issues before they round out the stage by facing Argentina and France. The talismanic Owen Farrell is the key – and not just because of his outstanding kicking off the tee.

3. WALES

Warren Gatland could finish his spell in charge by doing a Six Nations Grand Slam and World Cup double. The Kiwi reached the semi-finals in 2011 and then the quarters four years ago. The reason they are not rated higher, however, is the list of absentees. Flanker Taulupe Faletau and fly-half Gareth Anscombe are missing due to injuries, scrum-half Rhys Webb is unavailable due to selection rules and attack coach Rob Howley has returned home over an alleged betting breach.

4. IRELAND

Like several of his counterparts, Joe Schmidt's tenure comes to an end with the World Cup. His final Six Nations did not go quite to plan, but Ireland top the world rankings, defeated New Zealand less than a year ago (in a game where the mighty All Blacks failed to score a try) and have plenty of experience in their squad. Much will depend on the form and fitness of fly-half Johnny Sexton - can he help the team recapture the form they displayed in 2018? While Pool A looks to be plain sailing, they face the prospect of New Zealand or South Africa in the last eight.

5. AUSTRALIA

The beaten finalists from four years ago will be relying on experience to go one better than 2015. Michael Cheika has often seemed on the brink as their head coach, but he raised hopes by beating New Zealand 47-26 in Perth in August. Still, they lost the rematch 36-0 on the road and are minus their leading strike weapon in Israel Folau, who is locked in a legal dispute with the Australia Rugby Union following his sacking for comments on social media. Without him, they will be more workmanlike than eye-catching in attack. 

6. SCOTLAND

Scotland are in a pool that, apart from Ireland, looks softer than some of the alternative options. They will not take hosts Japan for granted in their final round-robin fixture and, if they do progress, will have to cause an upset against either New Zealand or South Africa in the next round. Gregor Townsend has plenty of World Cup experience from his playing days, but this is his first in charge of the national team - expect the Scots to be in some highly entertaining contests but the last four looks a long shot.

7. ARGENTINA

Los Pumas languish outside the top 10 in the rankings but have made the semi-finals at two of the last three World Cups. The reason they are listed so low here, though, is their group. Only two can progress and having been drawn alongside England and France, Argentina face a challenge to make the quarters. Mario Ledesma's squad is dominated by players from Jaguares, who reached the Super Rugby final for the first time this year, but will lean on the Stade Francais' Nicolas Sanchez to provide control.

8. FRANCE

There was a time when France were the team you wanted to avoid in the knockout stages (just ask New Zealand 12 years ago, while they only won the 2011 final 8-7 against Les Bleus). Yet this current bunch are not living up to previous versions, with a distinct lack of flair put down to a domestic game now dominated by big-name overseas recruits occupying key positions. Sure, France have turned it on for the big occasion in the past, but the 2019 squad should concentrate first on making it out of their pool.

AND THE REST...

Japan have improved since 2015. Italy? Not so much. The hosts can justifiably think a quarter-final slot is within reach, but the Azzurri look doomed in Pool B alongside the All Blacks and the Boks. Currently placed inside the world's top 10, Fiji will likely have to beat one of Australia or Wales just to make it out of their group. The other nations will hope for damage limitation against the big boys and aim to take points off each other in their remaining fixtures. 

Ambitious Japan coach Jamie Joseph is eyeing history as the hosts prepare to kick-off the Rugby World Cup against Russia in Tokyo on Friday.

The Brave Blossoms caused an almighty stir at the tournament four years ago by defeating giants South Africa 34-32 in one of the biggest shocks in the sport's history.

Agonisingly for the team, led by now England coach Eddie Jones, that effort in Brighton was not quite enough as they became the first team to be eliminated from the pool stage having won three matches.

It was Japan's best performance at a World Cup to date, but Joseph wants his side to dream big.

"Our team wants to make the top eight – it hasn't been done obviously for a Japanese team," said the former New Zealand flanker.

"The last World Cup, Japan did very, very well but still didn't make the top eight so that's been the target all along."

To make the last eight, Japan will have to fight their way out of a daunting Pool A, which also includes the top-ranked nation Ireland, Scotland and Samoa.

"We've got some very tough teams that we play, starting with Russia on the weekend," added Joseph.

"To achieve that goal, we've got to earn the right to be there so this week, the focus is on Russia and it's important that we put in a good performance and win that match and then we can move on to the next challenge."

History suggests Japan will make a flying start in front of home support at the Tokyo Stadium, having won five of their six matches against Russia.

Their brave, intense style shocked the Springboks and they caused problems for England in a 20-point defeat in 2018.

Underdogs Russia, ranked 10 places below their opponents, are playing at the World Cup for just the second time and only secured their place after Spain and Romania were docked points for fielding ineligible players.

In their first foray into the World Cup, Russia lost all four games at the 2011 tournament by an average margin of 35 points.

Head coach Lyn Jones recognises the limitations of Russia's squad but urged his team to play without fear.

"It is both scary and exciting and I've just explained to the players there's nothing we can do to help them prepare for this first game," he told The Guardian. 

"It's just about the experience and playing with no fear whatsoever. Just get out there and express yourself. If you play really hard and chase really hard it's amazing what you can achieve."

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Japan – Kazuki Himeno

Japan have strength in the back row with captain Michael Leitch, Pieter Labuschagne and Amanaki Mafi among the dynamic options. Himeno can be influential for the host nation with his ball-carrying skills and ability to get over the gain line.

Russia – Vasily Artemyev

A member of Russia's first World Cup squad and, at 32, this could well be Artemyev's last opportunity to grace the grandest rugby stage. He has 29 tries in 86 matches for Russia and boasts Premiership experience having represented Northampton Saints between 2011 and 2013.

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Japan have won five of their previous six Test matches against Russia, including each of their last four on the bounce; their most recent clash saw Japan win despite trailing by 12 points at half-time, only once before have they recorded a bigger second-half comeback (16 points behind versus Canada in 2014).

- Japan and Russia will face each other at the Rugby World Cup for the first time; the Cherry Blossoms have won three of their four clashes with the Bears in Japan however, including a 75-3 triumph in their most recent such fixture in 2010.

- The opening game of the Rugby World Cup has been won by a host nation in six of the previous eight tournaments, with the only exceptions being England's defeat to New Zealand in 1991 and France's opening round loss to Argentina in 2007. 

- Japan won three of their four games at the Rugby World Cup in 2015, this after winning just once in 24 attempts during their previous seven World Cup campaigns (D2, L21).

- Japan have slotted 90 per cent of their kicks at goal in 2019, the best rate of any of the 20 sides at the Rugby World Cup in Test rugby this year, in contrast Russia have kicked 70 per cent (ninth best).

Spain put in a dominant performance against heavy hitters Serbia to set up a clash with Poland in the quarter-finals of the FIBA World Cup.

Serbia had the best offense of the tournament heading into Sunday's encounter, but Spain held firm in Wuhan to secure an 81-69 victory and top spot in Group J.

Poland finished second behind Argentina in Group I following a 91-65 defeat to the South Americans, while Russia beat Venezuela 69-60 in the same pool.

Meanwhile, Italy ended their campaign with an impressive comeback against Puerto Rico, Tunisia came out on top by just two points against Angola and South Korea got the better of Ivory Coast.

RUBIO RUNS THE SHOW AS SPAIN STALL SERBIA

Ricky Rubio was in scintillating form as he scored 19 points and added four assists to lead Spain to victory over Serbia, who suffered their first defeat since February.

Rubio was backed up admirably by Marc Gasol and Victor Claver, as Spain earned a fifth successive win.

It was the first time Serbia failed to score 70 points or more in a World Cup match, even though Bogdan Bogdanovic grabbed 26 points in a supreme individual display.

While Spain will face Poland in the last eight, Serbia must rally for a tough test against Argentina.

NIGERIA BOOK OLYMPIC SPOT

Hosts China slipped to an 86-73 defeat in Guangzhou, as Nigeria grasped a place at the 2020 Olympics.

Josh Okogie helped himself to 19 points for Nigeria, with 11 coming in the final quarter. Jianlian Yi was the start of the show with 27 points, but his performance was not enough to secure a Chinese victory.

Nigeria's NBA forward Al-Farouq Aminu said on the FIBA website: "I remember when I joined the team in 2012 we said we did not want to miss an Olympics. It's a beautiful feeling. It's amazing."

China are in danger of missing out on direct qualification for the Olympics, with Iran going above them in the race for Tokyo thanks to their 95-75 win over Philippines.

AZZURRI FIGHT BACK TO OVERCOME PUERTO RICO

Marco Belinelli and Danilo Gallinari inspired Italy to overcome a 26-point deficit as the Azzurri triumphed 94-89 in overtime against Puerto Rico to end a frustrating campaign on a positive note.

Italy had never previously won a World Cup match in which they trailed by 15 points or more at half-time, but Belinelli and Gallinari rallied their team-mates after a timeout taken when 59-33 behind midway through the third quarter.

Belinelli converted a game-high 27 points, while Gallinari became the first Italy player to accumulate more than 20 points, five rebounds and five assists in a World Cup game since 1994.

"It was a very bad game for us in the beginning. We did not show up," Gallinari said. "We knew that we had to come out with a different attitude and different intensity in the second half and I think that we did a great job."

Steve Clarke says Scotland have put themselves into a position where they must now beat Belgium to stand a chance of automatic qualification for Euro 2020.

Stephen O'Connell's own goal ultimately handed Russia a 2-1 victory at Hampden Park, though it was the manner of Friday's defeat that frustrated Scotland boss Clarke.

John McGinn's first international goal put Scotland ahead early on, only for the home side to surrender their lead when Artem Dzyuba drilled home, with Russia taking control in the second half.

Scotland have six points from their five Group I outings so far, half the amount of second-place Russia and nine shy of leaders Belgium, who visit Glasgow on Monday in a fixture Clarke has outlined as a must-win.

"After such a good start, getting ourselves in front, then we seemed to freeze," Clarke told Sky Sports.

"It was as if we couldn't believe we were in front, we took our foot off the gas, we gave Russia the momentum.

"I'm not sure why. It seems as though we panicked a little bit, started getting caught on the ball and nervous in possession, that nervousness goes through to the crowd.

"If you're going to qualify you have to turn up in the big games. This is a night when we had to turn up. It drifted away from us.

"I've got to get the lads back in a positive frame of mind. We have to look at the Belgium game as almost a must-win. That's the scenario we've put ourselves in."

Scotland captain Andrew Robertson echoed Clarke's sentiment, with the Liverpool defender telling Sky Sports: "It was as if the goal scared us, and I've never seen anything like it before.

"If we get the lead it should be a positive, not a negative. [Annoyed with] everything, my own performance, what I've done out there, what the rest of the lads have done.

"I don't think anyone got pass marks, [David] Marshall maybe, for a couple of good saves, he couldn't really do anything about the goals.

"To have 10 players from the start who haven't shown up, not putting in the performances that we can do, that's why we've ended up with this result.

"I don't think Russia were at their best either. Unfortunately we were worse."

Scotland's Euro 2020 qualification hopes are fading after Stephen O'Donnell's own goal condemned them to a 2-1 home defeat to Russia.

Guilherme's goalkeeping calamity handed John McGinn his first international goal 10 minutes in, but Scotland failed to build on their strong start.

With Artem Dzyuba drilling in an equaliser five minutes before half-time, Russia – through the exceptional Aleksandr Golovin – took control after the interval.

Their dominance was rewarded when Yuri Zhirkov's attempted tap-in squirmed in off O'Donnell.

The woodwork twice denied Russia a third to give Scotland hope, but the visitors held firm to secure a victory which takes them six points clear of Steve Clarke's side in Group I.

Guilherme made an instinctive stop to keep out O'Donnell's ninth-minute effort, but he was soon at fault for Scotland's opener when he spilled Ryan Fraser's cross straight to McGinn.

David Marshall preserved Scotland's lead soon after, reacting sharply to tip Dzyuba's header over, though he could do nothing to deny Russia's captain in the 40th minute.

Having latched on to Golovin's cut-back, Dzyuba made no mistake with a firm finish.

Charlie Mulgrew's block from Golovin's strike maintained parity shortly after the restart, before the Russia playmaker sliced wide from the edge of the area.

Golovin was causing havoc, though, and he turned provider once more when he raced behind Scotland's lines and drilled in a low cross which O'Donnell bundled into his own net.

Marshall tipped Mario Fernandes' header onto the crossbar as Russia aimed to wrap up the win.

The post then came to Scotland's rescue from Magomed Ozdoev's effort, and Russia spurned further chances, but the home side could not make their good fortune count.

What does it mean? Scotland's chances look slim

With six points from their opening five qualifiers, and Belgium up next, Scotland's hopes of automatic qualification are hanging by a thread.

A play-off spot is now likely the primary aim for Clarke, who must ensure his side – who face Russia again in October – make sure of maximum points when it comes to their final three Group I games against San Marino, Cyprus and Kazakhstan.

Golovin rediscovers World Cup form

Russia's Golovin was a standout performer at the 2018 World Cup but has struggled to recapture the levels of those performances since moving to Monaco on the back of that tournament.

Guilherme caught out

Brazilian-born Guilherme has been Russia's first-choice goalkeeper since Igor Akinfeev retired, though he looked unaccustomed to the international stage throughout Friday's encounter, no more so than when he gifted McGinn the opener.

What's next?

Scotland face Group I leaders Belgium at Hampden Park on Monday, while Russia host Kazakhstan.

Spain and Serbia booked their spots in the quarter-finals of the FIBA World Cup on Friday.

Spain overcame Italy 67-60 and Serbia thrashed Puerto Rico 90-47 as they both guaranteed qualification from Group J.

The two nations will battle it out for top spot when they meet in a mouth-watering clash in Wuhan on Sunday.

Poland and Argentina also advanced with victories over Russia and Venezuela respectively.

Hosts China scored a 77-73 win over South Korea in the classification round, while there were also triumphs for Nigeria, Iran and Tunisia.

 

ITALY LOSE IT LATE

Spain were trailing 56-52 with four minutes to play against Italy, but Ricky Rubio helped lead a 10-0 run as Italy were put to the sword.

The Phoenix Suns guard finished with 15 points, two assists and two steals, though he recorded seven turnovers – a joint-high for him in a World Cup game.

Juancho Hernangomez had a game-high 16 points as Italy came up short and saw their hopes of reaching the last eight go up in smoke.

Marc Gasol had just two points and four rebounds in his 27 minutes on the floor.

 

SERBIA TOO GOOD FOR PUERTO RICO

A fourth win on the trot always looked likely for Serbia, who opened the scoring and never trailed against Puerto Rico.

Five Serbia players reached double figures in points, while the towering Boban Marjanovic went seven-of-eight from the field for 16 points.

The European side out-rebounded their opponents 48-26 and used all 12 of their players in a routine victory.

Nikola Jokic claimed a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds.

 

DECK DECKS VENEZUELA

Argentina had Gabriel Deck to thank for their 87-67 triumph over Venezuela; the Real Madrid forward had 25 points off nine-of-12 shooting in a comfortable win.

Poland joined them in advancing from Group I.

Adam Waczynski scored eight of his 18 points in the fourth quarter as Poland came from behind to down Russia 79-74.

Mateusz Ponitka contributed 14 points and nine rebounds, as Mikhail Kulagin's game-high 21 proved insufficient for Russia.

Like Spain and Serbia, Poland and Argentina will fight for top spot on Sunday. They go head to head in Foshan.

Poland progressed into the second round of the FIBA World Cup after securing a 79-76 overtime victory over tournament hosts China.

Yi Jianlian missed a three-pointer in the final seconds in Beijing, and China's hopes now hang in the balance as they head into their final group game against Venezuela, who beat Ivory Coast 87-71.

Serbia amassed a huge haul of 126 points as they demolished the Philippines in Foshan, where Italy had beaten Angola 92-61 earlier on Monday.

In Group B there were wins for Argentina and Russia, while Tunisia overcame Iran and Spain got the better of Puerto Rico.

HOSTS DOWNED IN BEIJING THRILLER

Poland clinched their progression from Group A with a dramatic triumph over China in a thrilling encounter.

Mateusz Ponitka became the first player to score 10 or more free throws in the World Cup as he and AJ Slaughter led the way for Poland, who were a point behind with 4.2 seconds remaining.

Ponitka made no mistake with one of the free throws, and after Damian Kulig nudged Poland ahead in overtime, the Zenit man converted another point, which ultimately proved decisive when Yi squandered a three-pointer at the death.

In Group A's other match, Heissler Guillent put in an inspired performance to lead Venezuela to victory over Ivory Coast.

SERBIA STORM INTO ROUND TWO

Seven players got into double figures as Serbia marched into the second round with a demolition of the Philippines.

Nemanja Bjelica missed Serbia's opener against Angola, but came off the bench to steal the show, scoring all seven of his field-goal attempts.

Bjelica sunk a hat-trick of three-pointers as he finished off with a game-high 20 points in 16 minutes.

Serbia will be joined in round two by Group D rivals Italy - who they face next - after their 92-61 victory over Angola.

ARGENTINA REACH MILESTONE VICTORY

Another side into the next round are Argentina after they claimed a 94-81 win over Nigeria.

Nigeria clawed themselves back into contention with a late rally, but an early charge from Argentina proved enough to secure their second win in Group B, and a 60th overall in the World Cup.

Luis Scola was key to the victory with 23 points and 10 rebounds, and he is now the second all-time highest scorer in World Cup history with 611 points.

Russia, meanwhile, were 87-73 winners over South Korea.

Finland claimed their first IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship title since 2011 courtesy of a 3-1 win over Canada in Sunday's final.

Kaapo Kakko, 18, scored twice for Finland, although his opener was cancelled out by Jonathan Marchessault in the first period.

But Arttu Ilomaki's goal gave Finland a third-period lead before Kakko's empty-netter in the final minute.

It was Finland's third tournament win and second straight when the event has been held in Slovakia, repeating their 2011 success.

Kakko, touted as a potential number one pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, praised his team's fight.

"It was such a great feeling out there, and our fans were so unbelievable," Kakko said.

"The team battled really well."

In the battle for third place, Russia recorded a 3-2 shoot-out victory over the Czech Republic.

Marko Anttila was Finland's hero as they beat Russia 1-0 to set up an IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship final against Canada.

Anttila scored the only goal of a tense semi-final with just under 10 minutes remaining on Saturday.

Captain Anttila brought Finland level in a quarter-final victory over defending champions Sweden and his deflected strike was decisive at Ondrej Nepela Arena in Bratislava.

Finland goaltender Kevin Lankinen said: "He [Anttila] took a stick in the face and came back and scored the game-winning goal,

"That shows a lot of character. He's a good leader and a really nice guy to be around."

Canada eased into the gold-medal game with a 5-1 defeat of the Czech Republic.

Mark Stone, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Darnell Nurse, Thomas Chabot and Kyle Turris were on target in a commanding display from Canada.

Canada were outstanding in defence and clinical in attack as they moved into a 10th decider in the last 17 years.

Canada scraped into the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship semi-finals with a dramatic victory over Switzerland, while defending champions Sweden were stunned.

The top-ranked Canadians were heading out of the tournament as they trailed 2-1 late in the third period until New Jersey Devils defenceman Damon Severson intervened.

Severson's point shot squeezed over the line with 0.4 seconds remaining and a video review confirmed the goal to take the game to overtime.

Vegas Golden Knights winger Mark Stone then scored his second goal of the clash to clinch a precious 3-2 win.

"I saw the puck go in and that's all I could tell you really," said Severson. "I didn't know how much time was left.

"I knew that it was going to be close to the end of the period, but it ended up being the tying goal with 0.4 left, so that was awesome."

There was also a dramatic finish between Finland and Sweden as two late goals saw the 2018 winners beaten 5-4.

Marko Anttila took the contest to overtime, where Sakari Manninen was the Finland hero.

Russia's bid for a 28th gold medal – extending their own record – continues after they defeated the United States 4-3. They will play Finland, while Czech Republic thrashed Germany 5-1 to set up a meeting with Canada.

Canada defeated United States 3-0 to claim top spot in Group A of the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship, while Russia's 7-4 win over Sweden meant they finished first in Group B.

Six matches on Tuesday concluded the group stage of the tournament in Slovakia.

The eight qualifiers for the quarter-finals – the top four teams in each group – were known, but final placings were up for grabs.

Canada's reward is a last-eight clash against Switzerland – who finished fourth in Group B – on Thursday, while Russia, who have a 100 per cent record after seven games, will take on USA in a mouth-watering tie.

Finland will play Sweden and Czech Republic face Germany in the other two quarter-final contests.

Canada made a fast start against USA with goals from Pierre-Luc Dubois and Kyle Turris in the first period setting them on their way.

Jared McCann of the Pittsburgh Penguins netted in the second to seal the win, while the impressive Matt Murray made 28 saves at the other end en route to a shutout.

They overhauled previous leaders Finland, who lost 4-2 to Germany, while hosts Slovakia ended their tournament on a high after beating Denmark in a shootout.

In Group B, Czech Republic won a lively encounter 5-4 against Switzerland and Latvia beat Norway 4-1 in a match between two teams who already knew they would be eliminated.

The United States inched closer to a IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship quarter-final spot as Chicago Blackhawks star Patrick Kane shone again in a 7-1 victory over Denmark.

Kane scored three points in the Group A success, as did Chicago team-mate Alex DeBrincat, with USA now virtually assured of a last-eight berth.

That would have been confirmed had hosts Slovakia not beaten Great Britain, but the hosts remain in the hunt after a convincing 7-1 triumph in which they scored three times in each of the first two periods.

With three of the top-four spots in Group A already sewn up, USA would join Finland, Canada and Germany in the quarter-finals if they beat the Germans on Sunday.

In Group B, Sweden's last-eight hopes were boosted by a thrilling 4-3 win over Switzerland in a repeat of last year's final.

Defending champions Sweden again came out on top thanks to Oliver Ekman-Larsson's game-winner in the third period.

Canada inflicted a first defeat on Germany, who went down 8-1 in Group A, while in Group B, Russia beat Latvia 3-1 and Norway overcame Italy 7-1.

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