Brazil

Without competitive European football like the Europa League or the Champions League Tranmere has only welcomed a handful of foreign teams and most have only played friendlies.

Tranmere can however claim to have attracted teams from further afield than Europe. In February 1992 Tranmere took on a full international team preparing for World Cup qualification. Although not the biggest team in the world, New Zealand still offered an interesting test for Tranmere Rovers.

New Zealand were in the UK as they felt that the quality of teams in the Asia Pacific area was going to help them prepare to qualify for the World Cup

The ‘All Whites’ came to Prenton Park after beating Celtic 1-0 the week before coming to Tranmere.

The majority of the New Zealand players played in the Australian league system but two members of their squad were accustomed to the English style of football. Ceri Evans who was making his 71st appearance for New Zealand usually played for Oxford United and Chris Zoricich making his 31st appearance was a Leyton Orient midfielder.

The attendance was not too high at 3,771 supporters but the game being played on a cold Valentines Day evening probably did not help. On the surface though, the game seemed like it would be a good contest.

The game however was rather one sided as Rovers won 7-0 with Aldridge scoring four, Muir two and Morrissey one. It was the second largest defeat New Zealand had ever suffered to date.

The Birkenhead News stated ‘Tranmere hit men Ian Muir and John Aldridge served up their own version of the St Valentines Day Massacre last Friday.’

Fast forward to the summer of 1997 and Tranmere welcomed another foreign team for a pre-season friendly. The Brazilian side Gremio were formed in 1976 and came to Prenton Park from the Sao Paulo State League. The team had like many Brazilian clubs had an excellent youth side but many left for Europe and better teams.

Tranmere in 1997 were looking to build on their First Division experience of the past seasons to push for promotion into the Premier League and a challenging friendly could give Tranmere the warm up they needed.

The Chairman Frank Corfu said ‘This should be a truly fascinating match between a confident Tranmere and the silky skills of the Brazilian First Division.’

John Aldridge told the players to enjoy themselves against a team that included several international players. Aldo said ‘It’s not often we get the opportunity to match ourselves against a side regarded as one of the best in South America.’

The game would also be the debut for David Kelly who had just transferred from Sunderland for £350,000.

At Prenton Park that day attendance wasn’t high with just under four thousand supporters. This however did not dampen the Brazilian’s spirit and they started the game with their predicted skilful interplay.

The first half by all accounts was a feast for the eyes as both teams displayed good fast passing with the ball flying from end to end. However at the half time whistle the score stood at 0-0.

The second half however was a different game as Gremio started to lag and Tranmere piled on the pressure. However Rovers still had to wait until the 71st minute to score as Graham Branch put a Lee Jones cross into the back of the net.

Soon after Paul Cook was impeded in the box and Andy Thompson scored the penalty. The game finished 2-0 to Rovers.

The Echo stated ‘Gremio showed some neat skills but rarely troubled an efficient home defence in which Andy Thompson and John McGreal dominated.’

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