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Smaller nations scratch around for friendlies

February 13, 2009

Like so often in the modern game, arranging international friendlies is much easier if you happen to be a big and powerful footballing nation.

While this week offered three lucrative and prestigious friendlies — Brazil-Italy, Spain-England and France-Argentina — smaller countries were left scratching around for opposition.

Paraguay, who despite playing at three successive World Cups seem unable to attract the promoters, ended up visiting Peru, a country they have already met twice in just over a year in World Cup qualifying matches. That followed a tortuous journey to Oman for a game last November.

In other games, Uruguay visited Libya while Colombia hosted Haiti.

Costa Rica, who beat Honduras 2-0 in a World Cup qualifier on Wednesday, often struggle to find friendly opponents.

They desperately want a fixture ahead of their visit to Mexico for another World Cup game at the end of March. The Mexicans, on the other hand, have already fixed up a game against Bolivia on March 11 in the United States, where they can be guaranteed a sizeable crowd of expatriates.

“It’s difficult, they ask me why Mexico can play Bolivia and we can’t,” Joseph Ramirez, general secretary of the Costa Rican federation, told local newspaper La Nacion.

“The difference is that they have the economic means and attract more people, the promoters don’t take us to play in the United States because there’s a risk the public will not go.

“We’re trying to bring a team from South America. It’s more practical to play here, some teams will accept to pay for their own tickets and we pay for the accommodation, and sometimes there are teams who will pay everything under the concept of solidarity.”

Another example of inequality in the modern game.

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PHOTO: Paraguay’s Enrique Vera (C) fights for the ball with Peru’s Paolo De la Haza during their friendly match in Lima Feb. 11, 2009. REUTERS/Enrique Castro-Mendivil

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