World Cup feel as big guns meet in feast of friendlies

London: A clutch of high-profile matches that have the look of a set of World Cup quarter-finals highlight a big night of international soccer friendlies on Wednesday.

Germany v Italy, France v Brazil, Argentina v Portugal and Spain v Colombia all catch the eye while England`s trip to Denmark and World Cup runners-up Netherlands against Austria are two more intriguing contests.

Coming just as Europe`s major leagues start to head towards the sharp end and days before the resumption of the Champions League, the matches are an unwelcome distraction for most club coaches.

However, they are cherished by the national team managers planning for the resumption of Euro 2012 qualifying next month.

World and European champions Spain could certainly do with a good result against Colombia having lost 4-1 to Argentina and 4-0 to Portugal in recent friendlies, results blamed partly on the increasing demands of club by manager Vincete del Bosque on Tuesday.

One man who should be focussed on the national team, however, is striker David Villa who will become his country`s leading scorer if he nets on Wednesday.

Villa is level on 44 goals with Raul, though his have come in 70 appearances compared with Raul`s 102.

Germany and Italy return to Dortmund, the venue of their last meeting when the Italians triumphed 2-0 after extra time in their epic 2006 World Cup semi-final.

France have been unrecognisable from the team who imploded in last year`s World Cup and get the perfect chance to test their progress against Brazil in a repeat of the 1998 World Cup final.

Argentina and Portugal meet in Geneva, with Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo battling for top billing while England travel to Denmark in their usual condition - minus half a dozen leading players withdrawn by their clubs citing injury and illness.

Netherlands face Austria bidding to maintain a run of form that has brought them a draw and five successive wins since their World Cup final defeat to Spain last July.

Bureau Report

Mumbai: A major fire broke out Wednesday in the `Bombay House` building in South Mumbai where offices of the Tata Group are located.

The fire was reported from the ground floor of the building, fire brigade sources said.

Eight fire engines and four tankers have been rushed to the spot, the sources said.

Bureau Report

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