World Cup warm-up

In February the Algarve will be the venue for the fine tuning of several South Africa hopefuls ahead of this year’s remaining crucial World Cup qualifying fixtures. The freezing winter weather in Eastern Europe has persuaded both Lithuania and Poland to travel south, the first-named Baltic republic entertaining particularly high hopes of reaching the final 32 under Portuguese coach José Couceiro.

Based in the region between the 5th and 12th, Lithuania have scheduled a friendly international with their Polish counterparts in the Stadium of the Algarve at 7pm on Saturday February 7 and a further test against Andorra in Albufeira at 5pm on February 11. On that same Wednesday Wales fly in to compare their state of readiness, also at 5pm, with Poland in Vila Real de Santo António. On a busy night of football all teams present are then expected to attend the Faro/Loule clash between Portugal and Finland.

Looking ahead, Spain and Portugal have put pen to paper in Lisbon formulising an official joint bid for the 2018 World Cup to rival those of England, Russia and the Benelux countries from within Europe. Together the Iberian neighbours can point at a very good big tournament track record, Spain having already staged the 1964 European and 1982 World finals while Portugal’s Euro’2004 spectacle was impeccable. The remaining seven purpose-built stadiums, together with Madrid and Barcelona’s football Meccas, are expected to stand the candidature in good stead with the FIFA world governing body.   

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