Portugal revived its World Cup qualifying campaign by beating Russia 1-0 while Mario Balotelli was red-carded for Italy in a 0-0 draw at the Czech Republic that put the four-time world champions closer to next years finals. Helder Postigas ninth-minute winner in Lisbon lifted the Portuguese from third to first in Group F, boosting the chances of football fans seeing Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo in Brazil next summer. While Portugals qualification is still far from secure, Italy is now four points clear of Bulgaria in Group B with four matches left -- three of which are at home -- after the Azzurri held on for a draw in Prague following the hot-headed Balotellis sending-off for two bookings. On a low-key night of qualifying in the European zone, Belgium and Bosnia-Herzegovina both won to consolidate top spots in their groups but Group H leader Montenegro lost 4-0 at home to Ukraine to put second-place England back in control of its own destiny. Perhaps the biggest celebrations came in Armenia, where Maltas players held hands and danced in celebration after recording a 1-0 win in the other match in Italys group -- only the tiny nations second ever victory in World Cup qualifying. The prospect of Ronaldo, one of the games best and most entertaining players, not featuring in the World Cup would have been very real had Portugal failed to sink a Russia side coming into the match on the back of four straight qualifying wins. Ronaldo lacked the sharpness he usually demonstrates at club level so it was left to Postiga to come to the rescue, tapping in Miguel Velosos free kick at the far post to clinch a huge win for the hosts, who moved two points clear in the group. Fabio Capellos Russia dropped to second but has two games in hand and will still be confident of claiming the one automatic qualifying berth. Italy will head to the Confederations Cup in Brazil knowing only a major collapse will stop them from being back there next summer, too. The Italians needed a couple of good saves from Gianluigi Buffon to secure a point after being forced to defend in the latter stages thanks to Balotellis 72nd-minute dismissal. "Balotelli was nervous," Italy coach Cesare Prandelli said of the striker, who argued with opponents, fellow Italians and the referee during the match. "It is his problem and he has to cope with that." "The point is of great importance for us," Prandelli added through an interpreter. Belgium seized the initiative in Group A by beating Serbia 2-1 through goals by Kevin de Bruyne and Marouane Fellaini and seeing Croatia, which started the night level on points with the leaders, surprisingly lose 1-0 at home to bottom-place Scotland. Belgium is three points clear with three matches remaining. Ukraine roared back into qualifying contention by condemning Montenegro to a first group loss in an action-packed game in Podgorica featuring three red cards and four second-half goals. The visitors went down to 10 men in first-half injury time when Roman Zozulia was given a straight red but Denys Garmash still put them ahead in the 52nd minute. Yevhen Konoplyanka made it 2-0 either side of sending-offs for Montenegro pair Vladimir Volkov and Savo Pavicevic before Artim Fedetskiy and Roman Bezus completed the rout. Montenegro stayed top but England is two points behind in second with a game in hand. Ukraine is a point further back, with two of its remaining four matches coming against last-place San Marino. Poland drew 1-1 at Moldova to drop to fourth and dent its hopes of a top-two finish. Bosnia-Herzegovina and Greece claimed contrasting wins in Group G to keep the race top spot bubbling. While Greece, the 2004 European champions, eked out a 1-0 win at Lithuania, the Bosnians thrashed Latvia 5-0 away with Manchester City striker Edin Dzeko one of five different scorers. Bosnia-Herzegovina has a three-point lead over Greece with four qualifiers left. In Group C, Austria threw the three-team race for the runner-up spot behind Germany wide open by beating Sweden 2-1 in Vienna. The Austrians are level on points with Ireland, which eased past the Faeroe Islands thanks to a hat trick on his record 126th appearance by Robbie Keane, with Sweden three points further back but having a game in hand. Iceland and Albania missed the chance to provisionally climb above Switzerland to the top of Group E by losing 4-2 to Slovenia and drawing 1-1 against Norway, respectively. Switzerland hosts Cyprus on Saturday and can pull four points clear with a win. Finland beat Belarus 1-0 in Group I through Kasper Hamalainens 57th-minute goal to keep alive its slim hopes of catching the top two of Spain and France. Matt Forte Autographed Jersey
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. This mantra: Just take it to Game 7. "If we get this win," guard Jeff Teague said, referring to Thursday nights game, "I think theres a good chance well get Game 7.VANCOUVER -- Chris Higgins is happy to hear the Vancouver Canucks now have an official team donut. "I might have to put one or two down," he said Tuesday after his first full practice since he was sidelined for six games while battling the after-effects of foot and hand infections. A healthier -- and heavier -- Higgins will return to the Vancouver lineup Wednesday against the Colorado Avalanche. But he is still looking to put on a few more pounds after losing weight while recovering. The 28-year-old was sidelined after he suffered an adverse reaction to antibiotics that created flu-like symptoms. "I think the most (lost) was 11, 12 pounds," said Higgins. "Ive only got a couple more to go. A couple more desserts and it should be fine." The Canucks announced a new partnership with Tim Hortons whereby a long john cream-filled donut with the teams logo will available at more than 150 of the chains shops within a 100-kilometre radius of Rogers Arena on game days. Before learning of the new donut, Higgins tried to bulk up by supplementing his diet with healthy fare. He kept in shape by working out off the ice and skating with Canucks medical staff and skills coach Dale Carnegie while the team was on a recent four-game road trip. Otherwise, Higgins spent much of his time lying on the floor in his apartment, "not shaving" and watching as many NHL games as he could on TV to keep his mind sharp and prepare for his return. "Its been a long rehab," he said. "The first couple days were real rough. I didnt leave the apartment for a good three or four days there. Im excited just to be back moving around a little bit. I feel like myself. But I cant overdo it. Ive got to keep my energy up. Its been tough losing the weight as well." The infections forced him to miss five games in December while also sending him to hospital for a couple of days. The foot problem first surfaced last season while he was with the Florida Panthers, and he thought he had it under control, but it came back unexpectedly. Before he was sidelined the first time, Higgins had been enjoying a career renaissance. Between the 2008-09 and 2010-11 seasons, he played for Montreal, the New York Rangers, Calgary and Florida as a result of ttrades and a free-agent signing.dddddddddddd He helped the Canucks reach the Stanley Cup finals last spring and became an important part of the clubs All-American line with Detroit-area natives Ryan Kesler and David Booth this season. When the foot infection forced his first departure from the lineup, Higgins was sitting fifth in team scoring with 10 goals and 12 assists. But he has managed a modest four assists since then while dropping to ninth. Coach Alain Vigneault plans to use Higgins more sparingly than when the winger was healthy. Vigneault will cut back on his special-teams responsibilities and is expected to start him on a grinding line with Max Lapierre and Jannik Hansen. "I want to pace his minutes a little bit more here, considering what hes gone through," said Vigneault. "He probably wont see a lot of power-play time or penalty-killing time at the beginning. Were going to try to ease them in." Higgins, who has averaged 16:28 of ice time, has not had trouble with the foot or hand. He has stopped taking the antibiotics and all other drugs after taking "a circle of medications for the past two months." Now, he is looking forward to regaining the form that he displayed late last season. "Im excited for the rest of the year," he said. "This is when play starts to pick up in the season. I just want to be a big part of this team." Defenceman Kevin Bieksa said Higgins brings more depth to the lineup. The Canucks (35-15-6), who are contending for first place in the Western Conference and overall in the league with the Detroit Red Wings, will be a "pretty good team" if Higgins can regain his form. "Its unfortunate that hes had these problems," said Bieksa. "But, hopefully, theyre behind him." Notes: Winger Dale Weise suffered a broken nose Wednesday after he took a puck in the face in practice. He is questionable for the game against the Avs. ... Defenceman Keith Ballard, who has been out with a sore neck, did not practise. ... Roberto Luongo will start in goal for the Canucks while Jean-Sebastien Giguere gets the call for the Colorado. ... Colorado centre Matt Duchene will not play because of sprained knee. ' ' '