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Beckenbauer: Iran capable of reaching Final 16 at World Cup

Berlin, Sep 24, IRNA-Iran's national football team has the potential to reach the second round of the 2006 World Cup in Germany, said legendary German football hero and head of the Frankfurt-based World Cup Organizing Committee, Franz Beckenbauer, on Friday.

"With a little bit of luck and a good (World Cup) group drawing in Leipzig on December 9, Iran can successfully overcome the first group phase," Beckenbauer said in an exclusive interview with IRNA ahead of his official October 2 visit to Iran where he will update Iranian football officials on his country's World Cup preparations.

Beckenbauer singled out Iranian Bundesliga legionaries -- Ali Karimi, Vahid Hashemian, Mehdi Mahdavikia and Ferydoon Zandi -- for their "important role" in the national team's triumphant World Cup qualifying campaign.

"These four players will form the backbone of Iran's World Cup squad," he added.

The former coach of the German national football squad pointed out, "Iran's offensive and good technical football style enjoys great reputation among German fans." Pointing to the purpose of his upcoming Iran trip, Beckenbauer said, "I am really keen on personally meeting our World Cup guests from Iran. I want to congratulate Iran on its successful World Cup qualification and I want to know the individual wishes of the Iranian football federation in order to be able to address them." Beckenbauer is scheduled to meet with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and other leading political, economic and cultural sports personalities as well as sports journalists at Tehran's Azadi Hotel on October 2.

"I anticipate good and informative talks with Iranian officials," he went on to say.

The former Bayern Munich captain reiterated he is still "overwhelmed" by the ecstatic Iranian football fans' welcome during last year's October 9 friendly between Germany and Iran which ended in a 2-0 victory for the German side.

"I have never experienced such an enthusiasm. Even our young German team was greatly impressed by the Iranians' fantastic hospitality and support which is unrivaled as long as I can remember," said Beckenbauer, who covered the historic match as a sports analyst for the German ZDF television network.

Proceeds of the Germany-Iran friendly match were donated to the survivors of the devastating December 26, 2003 Bam earthquake.

... Payvand News - 9/24/05 ... --

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