Brazil meets Argentina in friendly in Doha

The latest stage of Brazil’s global tour sees the five-time world champions facing South American rival Argentina in Doha in the standout match in this week’s round of international friendlies.

After playing games in Abu Dhabi and the central English city of Derby, the next stop for the Brazilians is Qatar, where Ronaldinho will be back in a yellow shirt for first time in 18 months after being recalled by coach Mano Menezes.

The AC Milan playmaker was left out of Brazil’s squad for this year’s World Cup but has regained some of the form that helped earn him the world player of the year award in 2004 and ’05.

In other showcase games Wednesday, World Cup champion Spain makes the short trip to Lisbon to play Iberian neighbor Portugal, and England hosts France.

The match in Doha pits two of the biggest footballing nations against each other on neutral territory.

It will be Argentina coach Sergio Batista first match since taking permanent charge of the team, but he is without injured players Esteban Cambiasso and Fernando Gago.

"The expectations against Brazil are the biggest," Batista said. "This is a classic game."

Brazil’s last home friendly was against Portugal in November 2008. Since winning the World Cup in 2002, the world’s most iconic team has played only three friendlies on home territory.

Most of the games have been held in Europe, where the majority of the squad members play their club football, but Brazil hasn’t been afraid to go further afield to places like Harare and Kuwait.

Ronaldinho’s return to international duty, for the first time since April last year, will add even more interest to the game.

Menezes, who has won all three of his games as Brazil coach, has been keen to go with youth as he looks to build a squad for the 2012 Olympics in London and the 2014 World Cup on home soil. But Ronaldinho’s solid form for Milan in Serie A has convinced Menezes to bring him back.

Young striker Neymar is also back in the squad after an absence for disciplinary reasons but AC Milan striker Alexandre Pato (hamstring) and Manchester United right back Rafael (ankle) are out with injuries.

Spain’s match at Portugal comes two weeks before the two countries discover whether their joint bid to host the 2018 World Cup has been successful.

"This game has a special significance due to the candidacy for the World Cup and we have to make a last effort for all the work that has gone into the Iberian candidacy," Del Bosque said. "If Barcelona against Real Madrid is good advertising for football, I hope that Portugal against Spain is as well."

Barcelona midfielder Xavi Herdandez is back in the Spain squad after missing recent matches against Lithuania and Scotland but winger Jesus Navas is out with leg injury and Fernando Torres could miss out after hurting ankle ligaments playing for Liverpool on Saturday.

England has major injury problems ahead of its home match against France.

Midfielder Frank Lampard and strikers Wayne Rooney and Jermain Defoe were already missing through injury for Fabio Capello’s team before John Terry, Ashley Cole and Gabriel Agbonlahor pulled out on Sunday after sustaining injuries on club duty over the weekend.

Jay Bothroyd, who plays in the second tier of English football with Cardiff City, was a surprise call-up by Capello and would become the first player from that level to receive a cap since David Nugent, then of Preston, in March 2007.

France’s form has picked up since its embarrassing exit in the first round of the World Cup last summer.

Consecutive wins against Bosnia-Herzegovina, Romania and Luxembourg have lifted Les Bleus to the top of their European Championship qualifying group and coach Laurent Blanc will be looking for further signs of improvement from his young squad at Wembley.

"People say we’re in a rebuilding period – I’m sorry but we’re in a building period," Blanc said. "That’s the hard thing about the task because it takes longer. And we don’t have time."

Elsewhere, Russia hosts Belgium in another match between two countries bidding for the World Cup, Germany travels to Sweden and World Cup runner-up Netherlands is at home to Turkey.