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Falcao test for Brazil; marathons for Spain, Portugal
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 14 - 11 - 2012

BERNE — Neymar and Radamel Falcao, two of the world's most prolific and sought-after strikers, come face-to-face when Brazil meets Colombia in the most enticing of around 50 friendly internationals being played Wednesday.
Spain and Portugal both face marathon trips with the world and European champion traveling to Panama and its Iberian neighbor lured to Gabon.
There are high-profile games between familiar European rivals, such as Netherlands-Germany, Italy-France and Sweden-England, and more exotic encounters such as the clash between Albania and Cameroon in Geneva.
Steven Gerrard is in line to make his 100th appearance for England, while Rene Adler, set to be Germany first-choice goalkeeper at the last World Cup until he was injured shortly before, is back in squad, two years after his last appearance.
Only a few years ago, Cameroon would have been favored opponent for many of the world's top sides. But, beset by internal bickering, its fortunes have taken a dramatic turn for the worse which culminated with elimination from the African Nations Cup at the hands of tiny Cape Verde, which itself faces Ghana in Lisbon Wednesday.
In other games, Argentina visits Saudi Arabia while Russia meets the United States for the first time in 12 years.
Brazil's meeting with Colombia at the Metlife stadium in New Jersey brings two together two sides which have been reaping the rewards of a more positive, attacking approach in the last few months.
Brazil's searches for its ideal team and a playing style which better suits its tradition appears to be bearing fruit for coach Mano Menezes, who has been greatly helped by the return of Kaka following a two-year absence from international football.
Colombia, a team struggling to find its footballing identity ever since its 1994 World Cup fiasco, has come back to life under the leadership of Argentina's 2006 World Cup coach Jose Pekerman.
The meeting of Santos forward Neymar, who has scored 16 goals in 25 internationals, and Atletico Madrid's Falcao, both on the radars of Europe's top sides, has added extra spice to the encounter.
Spain, which has made a habit of visiting far-flung ex-colonies recently, follows up trips to Venezuela, Puerto Rico and Costa Rica with it game in Panama Wednesday.
It will not be a walkover for Spain against an opponent which has reached the final stage of the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying competition and whose coach Julio Cesar Dely Valdes spent part of his playing career at Real Oviedo and Malaga.
Portugal can expect a festive reception in Gabon where President Ali Bongo, a fervent football fan, is almost certain to be among the crowd.
Gabon's Portuguese coach Paulo Duarte, known as the African Mourinho, became famous for his post-match rants during a previous spell with Burkina Faso, usually aimed at his own directors.
The match has created logistical problems for Portugal coach Paulo Bento, who will have only one training session with his players Tuesday and was unable to select anyone from Benfica which is playing the following Friday. — Reuters

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