The common trend among pre-World Cup friendlies is to play teams that closely resemble group opponents. It’s why England played an Egypt side that were only just nudged out in qualifying by Algeria, why Italy are playing a Mexico team that closely resembles Paraguay’s outfit and why Holland are preparing for Cameroon by scheduling a friendly with a similarly powerful Ghana team.
So quite why two of Portugal’s remaining three warm-up games are against Mozambique (ranked 89th in the world) and Cape Verde Island (117th) is anyone’s guess. Maybe they feel that they don’t need to exert themselves, given that they’ve not lost a competitive game since a 3-2 loss to Denmark in September 2008. So tonight, Portugal v Cape Verde Island, 7.30pm, is more a case of how many will they score rather than will they win (at 1/16), with 3-0 (at 5/1) or 4-0 (6/1) the choice picks – it will be of benefit to no one to overly embarrass the minnows.
The World Cup hosts are also in action this evening, and South Africa v Bulgaria, 7.35pm, should offer a better indication as to how Carlos Alberto Parreira’s side are looking than their 4-0 win over Thailand last week. South Africa haven’t lost any of their last eight friendlies, with draws against Paraguay and Japan the notable highlights.
Bulgaria aren’t in the best nick, they’ve lost four of their last six and won only three of their ten World Cup qualifying games, so the Bafana Bafana will once again be looking to use the passionate home crowd in Soweto as a catalyst for victory – it’ll be the first time Bulgaria have played amongst the cacophony of Vuvuzelas – so the home win at 10/11 shouldn’t be sniffed at, particularly as the visitors have only won one of their last ten games on the road.
Finally, to Buenos Aires, where Diego Maradona is taking his lead from the Carlos Queiroz chapter on comfortable World Cup warm-ups, as Canada provide the opposition for fourth favourites Argentina (kick off 8.30pm) in their last game before they begin their World Cup campaign.
Lionel Messi is expected to prove his training ground knock was nothing to worry about by lining up against the the side who’ve lost their last four games (against Jamaica, Poland, Macedonia and Honduras), while Carlos Tevez and Gonzalo Higuain are also likely to play, with Diego Milito no doubt still celebrating his Inter treble success. The home side are 1/8 favourites to win, and with Canada failing to score in those four losses, a victory to nil is again likely, with 2-0 and 3-0 the picks at 5/1 and 6/1 respectively.
Fancy a bet on this evening’s friendly action? See the full selection of tonight’s football matches.