Portugal braced for Spain

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PARIS, November 16 – Portugal host world champions and neighbours Spain Wednesday in a friendly match aimed at promoting the countries' joint bid for the 2018 World Cup.

The fixture is one of many being held in midweek as Europe’s national sides, in particular, look to maintain form and tweak tactics for the current qualifiers for the 2012 European Championships.

But despite the gloss, fans of Portugal will be looking forward to a good old grudge match.

The last time the sides met was at the World Cup in South Africa where a second half goal from David Villa separated the sides and sent Spain on their way to a triumphant final against the Netherlands.

While Spain coach Vincente del Bosque said last week that Wednesday’s fixture would provide the perfect opportunity for both sides to showcase their talents as potential World Cup hosts, Portugal coach Paulo Bento has other things on his mind.

"We want to fight, we want to play, we don’t want to watch Spain playing," said Bento, who took over from Carlos Queiroz after Portugal made a poor start to their Euro 2012 qualifier campaign.

"They are the best squad at the moment, but we want to take advantage of this match to create our own identity.

"It is important to not let Spain impose its playing style. We are very motivated.

Manchester United forward Nani meanwhile wants Portugal to put their World Cup failure firmly behind them.

"As a team we are not the best in the world, but as a group and as players were are amongst the best," said Nani, who missed the finals becuase of injury.

"We have to take advantage of these matches against the best (teams) to get stronger."

Switzerland coach Ottmar Hitzfeld has opted to give youth a chance in the friendly agaisnt Euro 2012 co-hosts Ukraine by calling up Wolfsburg striker Nassim Ben Khalifa.

He replaces Marco Streller after the FC Basel player suffered ankle ligament injuries at the weekend.

Despite Ben Khalifa’s lack of playing time for the Bundesliga side, Hitzfeld wants to see just how far the 18-year-old, who is of Tunisian origin, has come in training.

"I know that Ben Khalifa isn’t playing regularly with the first team but I do know that he’s applying himself in training and that he’s getting better," said Hitzfeld.

"It will be interesting to see that progression against Ukraine."

While Spain will look to uphold their status as the world’s top ranked team, several south American sides will be making the first steps towards preparing for next year’s Copa America.

Hong Kong host a Paraguay side that, according to Argentina and Barcelona star Lionel Messi, will be a force to be reckoned with once the event kicks off in July 2011.

"I’ve not forgotten Paraguay either, whose defensive prowess makes them uncomfortable opponents for any team," Messi told www.fifa.com Monday. "They really made Spain sweat at the World Cup."

Paraguay is expected to be without one of its most fervent supporters — busty actress and model Larissa Riquelme.

Riquelme was one of Paraguay’s most recognisable supporters — thanks in part to a revealing low-cut vest — during Paraguay’s World Cup campaign, which ended when Villa scored the winner for Spain in their quarter-final clash and sent the south Americans home.

According to Spanish website Sport.com, the Paraguayan football federation (AFP) has taken measures to stop the attractive 25-year-old from travelling and supporting the team.

Diego Forlan’s Uruguay were pipped to third place by Germany in South Africa and will be looking to gauge their form in what could be an intriguing match away to Chile.

Chile were eliminated from the second round of the World Cup by Brazil, and go into this match barely a week after their Argentine coach, Marcelo Bielsa, resigned following the failure of Harold Mayne-Nicholls to win re-election as president of the Chilean football federation (ANPF).

Fixtures

Albania v Macedonia, Austria v Greece, Bulgaria v Serbia, Chile v Uruguay, China v Latvia, Denmark v Czech Republic, Egypt v Australia, England v France, Estonia v Liechtenstein, Netherlands v Turkey, Hong Kong v Paraguay, Hungary v Lithuania, Iran v Nigeria, Israel v Iceland, Luxembourg v Algeria, Montenegro v Azerbaijan, Northern Ireland v Morocco, Oman v Belarus, Poland v Ivory Coast, Portugal v Spain, Republic of Ireland v Norway, Romania v Italy, Russia v Belgium, Slovakia v Bosnia-Herzegovina, Slovenia v Georgia, Sweden v Germany, Switzerland v Ukraine

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