THE eyes of the nation will be on Portugal this summer.
And they will zoom in on one of Halton's twinning partners, which is a host for football's European Championships.
Leiria will stage two matches in England's Group B at UEFA Euro 2004 in Portugal - one of them involving defending champions France.
The Dr Magalhães Pessoa Stadium has been upgraded with an almost three-fold increase in seating capacity to 30,000.
It will stage the match between Switzerland and Croatia on Sunday, June 13, followed by the clash of the French with Croatia on Thursday, June 17.
Improvements to the stadium have involved the construction of three completely new seating sections with a roof covering for all seats.
The stadium, which prior to redevelopment had a seating capacity of 11,000, is integrated within an existing urban sports complex.
Leiria, which supplied wood for the 'Discovery Ships', is inland to the west of Portugal - between fellow host cities Lisbon and Coimbria.
It is known for a vast 13th-century pine forest, planted by King D Dinis, and the magnificent castle overlooking the city.
Leiria has developed into a thriving city of about 105,000 people and has a lively and varied economy with industries ranging from cement, plaster, ceramics, plastics, moulds, wood, furniture, wine, horticulture, fruit and pig farming, to commerce, tourism and spas.
Despite its industrial nature, Leiria is spread across the hillsides and described as a town of great beauty. Downtown, the landscape is dominated by houses built over archways and behind graceful arcades.
Average highest temperatures in June are 22.6°C.
Portugal is one of Europe's oldest nations and has one of its most cosmopolitan cultures.
Massive investment and rebuilding will see the nation open its doors to football fans from across the continent with pristine stadia.
Braga, Guimarães, Porto and Aveiro are the other host cities while the south-coast towns of Faro and Loulé have joined forces with their own Algarve stadium.
The final is at Lisbon's 65,000-capacity Da Luz Stadium.