Full England match coming to Town

IPSWICH will stage an historic England football international next year.Sven Goran Eriksson's team will meet Croatia in a friendly at Portman Road on Wednesday, August 20.

By Mel Henderson

IPSWICH will stage an historic England football international next year.

Sven Goran Eriksson's team will meet Croatia in a friendly at Portman Road on Wednesday, August 20.

Suffolk fans can look forward to a first-ever visit from the full England team as they begin the final countdown to Euro 2004.


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Eriksson will be keen to field his strongest side in advance of key qualifiers against Macedonia, Liechtenstein and Turkey in the following weeks.

The Evening Star exclusively revealed back in February this year that the new-look stadium would play host to a senior international.

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And despite denials elsewhere, a spokeswoman for the Croatian Football Federation told me today:

"The game is definitely on.

"Our head coach is very excited about bringing the team to England and we very much look forward to the game in Ipswich."

Meanwhile, at the Football Association offices in Soho Square, London, a spokesman said: "We are not in a position to confirm anything at this stage."

Back in Zagreb, though, the Croatian Football Federation spokeswoman added: "We have been trying to arrange a game in England for the past two or three years.

"The negotiations continued until the arrangements were finalised a few weeks ago."

Croatia boast two Premiership stars – Middlesbrough striker Alen Boksic and Chelsea star Mario Stanic – in their squad.

And it is also littered with players who play their club football with some of Europe's top sides, including Bayern Munich, Bayer Leverkusen and Inter Milan.

Croatia failed to survive beyond the first phase of this year's World Cup finals, but they did pull off one of the tournament's biggest shocks in beating favourites Italy 2-1.

Last week they won 1-0 in a friendly in Romania and the game in Ipswich will be their first visit to England since April 1996, when they drew 0-0.

Ipswich Town chairman David Sheepshanks was unavailable for comment and a club spokesman could not confirm that the game would go ahead.

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