Danish brewer Carlsberg has posted better-than-expected second-quarter sales and raised full-year profit outlook, buoyed by strong sales in Russia during the World Cup.

Carlsberg, the world's third-largest brewer behind Anheuser Busch InBev and Heineken, has been losing ground to rivals in Russia, which accounts for around a fifth of sales.

Volumes in Russia rose 10% in April-June following an 11% decline in the first quarter, the brewer said.

Carlsberg has struggled in Russia, its main Eastern European market, since it took control of Baltika a decade ago, hit by a weak economy, restrictions on advertising and tax hikes designed to curb drinking.

Carlsberg's total sales in the second quarter rose to 18.3 billion Danish crowns (€2.45 billion), slightly above the 18 billion crowns expected by analysts in a Reuters poll.

"We delivered strong results for the first six months of 2018 with healthy top-line growth, margin improvements across the regions, strong cash flow and continued debt reduction," said Chief Executive Cees't Hart, adding that the brewer has had a "good start to the third quarter".

The company now expects operating profit to grow by high-single-digits in percentage terms this year. It had previously forecast growth in mid-single-digits.

In 2015, Hart launched a major cost-cutting programme and a strategy to revive growth, which has been subdued since the company took over Russian brand Baltika in 2008.

The group's price mix, which indicates that the company sold more of its expensive beers, improved by 2% in the first six months of the year and was positive across its major regions: Europe, Russia and Asia.

The brewer expects net benefits from a cost-cutting programme to exceed the 2.3 billion crowns it had previously guided.