Argentina eye home games against rivals

BUENOS AIRES - A friendly between world champions Spain and Argentina at the River Plate stadium on Tuesday could be the start of a new era in visits from high-profile teams with an eye on the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

The last time there was a wave of visits by the likes of England and the then West Germany was in the build-up to the 1978 World Cup in Argentina, the last finals to be held in South America.

An exception was when Franz Beckenbauer brought his young side to Buenos Aires for a friendly in December 1987, a year after Diego Maradona's Argentina had beaten the Germans in the Mexico final and three before exacting revenge in Rome.

Guillermo Tofoni, a FIFA agent who organises Argentina's friendly calendar, said he had a remit to bring top teams to Argentina.

"We're working on that idea with level A national teams, to arrange South American tours including Argentina and Brazil from here to 2014," he told Reuters.

He said he was talking to national team coaches and national association officials to find out how interested they were in such tours given that the World Cup will be played in Brazil.

FIRST STEP

Tuesday's friendly, arranged before Spain were crowned world champions in South Africa in July, appears a first step in that direction, reigniting the interest of top sides to visit South America.

Argentine ace Lionel Messi said his Barcelona team mates in the Spanish squad were excited at the prospect of playing in Buenos Aires, where they have requested to train on Sunday and Monday at the legendary Bombonera (chocolate box) stadium, home of Boca Juniors.

With Brazil looking to meet quality opposition at home before their World Cup since they will be deprived of the competitive football provided by the qualifiers, Argentina are hoping for a knock on affect of being included in tours by European sides.

Italy could play in Buenos Aires in June before Argentina host the Copa America.

Since Germany's 1987 visit, the only leading sides to have come to Argentina were Denmark in 1993 when they were European champions and the former Yugoslavia in 1996.

Spain will be Argentina's second opponents since their World Cup elimination by Germany in the quarter-finals in June after which Maradona was not retained as coach.

Under Olympic gold medal coach Sergio Batista, Argentina beat Ireland 1-0 in Dublin last month.

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