Brazil to face Iraq in Sweden a growing trend

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Yet there are other, arguably more important factors that are not related to Brazil hosting the Cup.

Time is one of them because most Brazilian internationals play in Europe. Fifteen of the 23 Brazilians named for this week's double header play their club football in the Old World.

Holding matches close to their bases, rather than making players cross the Atlantic twice in four or five days, keeps the players fresh and their clubs happy.

The Brazilian Soccer Federation, or CBF, has an agreement with European clubs not to make their players fly more than five hours for friendly matches that are not staged on official FIFA dates. That rules out an 11-hour flight to Sao Paulo or Rio de Janeiro.

A bigger element, however, could be cash.

The CBF last year signed a long-term deal that handed over control of its friendly matches to the Saudi-based International Sports Events (ISE).

ISE, who pay the CBF a reported $1.05 million for each game, chooses Brazil’s opponent and the city where the game will be played.

The games are “organized, promoted and commercialized” by Pitch International, a London-based sports marketing firm.

The deal, signed by Ricardo Teixeira, the CBF president who resigned his position in March after a spate of corruption scandals, is not popular with Brazilians, who feel facing third-rate opposition in small cities far from home is degrading for the only team to win the World Cup five times.

The managing director of Pitch Int. declined requests to explain how the deal works. Teixeira’s successor, Jose Maria Marin, told Reuters: “If Brazil plays abroad it is because it is good for the CBF and good for the Brazil team.”

But he and other top confederation officials have suggested elsewhere that not being able to choose who or where they play is hardly ideal.

“We want strong opponents,” Marin told the Folha de S.Paulo newspaper last month. “But that is not always possible. What is important is getting used to pressure.”

Malmo counts some 10,000 Iraqi inhabitants out of the overall 125,000 Iraqi nationals who live in Sweden. In addition, Denmark, home to a further 30,000 Iraqis according to official figures, is just across the bay.

The Iraqis have one Swedish-based player in Ahmed Yasin, who plays for top-flight side Orebro.

Malmo spokesman Per Welinder indicated he felt Thursday's match would not be a sellout.

“We hope there will be a good crowd - but we’re not there yet,” he said on Monday.

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