Football legend Franz Beckenbauer promotes 2006 World Cup in Prague

31-01-2006

Franz Beckenbauer is without question one of the all-time greats of world football. The elegant defender played over a hundred times for West Germany, captaining the side which won the World Cup in 1974. In 1990 he again tasted glory in the competition, as Germany's manager. As the country prepares to host this year's World Cup, Beckenbauer - on a visit to Prague - recalls his first World Cup, and assesses the chances of the Czech Republic.

Franz Beckenbauer, photo: CTKFranz Beckenbauer, photo: CTK Franz Beckenbauer is without question one of the all-time greats of world football. The elegant defender played over a hundred times for West Germany, captaining the side which won the World Cup in 1974. In 1990 the man they call "The Kaiser" again tasted glory in the competition, as Germany's manager.

Now as the country prepares to host the World Cup this summer Franz Beckenbauer - in his capacity as president of the organising committee - is visiting all 31 other states taking part.

On Monday he came to Prague, where he has been meeting Czech football association officials as well as the president and the prime minister. He also found time to speak to the media, and recalled his first World Cup, when West Germany were famously beaten by England in 1966.

Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek with Franz Beckenbauer, photo: CTKPrime Minister Jiri Paroubek with Franz Beckenbauer, photo: CTK "It's 40 years ago now, but of course I remember it - it was my first World Cup and it was of course a great experience for me as a young player of 20, playing against the likes of Bobby Charlton and Bobby Moore. For me personally it was a huge success because I got to enter the international scene. It was 40 years ago, but you never forget something like that."

Tens of thousands of Czech fans are expected to travel to Germany for the World Cup - they may never again have the chance to attend a World Cup so close to home. The Czech team may be taking part for the first time since 1990, but expectations are high after they did so well at Euro 2004. How does the great Franz Beckenbauer rate the Czech Republic's chances this summer?

"I think the Czech Republic have a strong team, with some very good players. I hope that by the time the World Cup begins in June Jan Koller and Lokvenc will be fit. If those two are back I think the Czechs have a good chance of getting to the quarter-final or the semi-final, or even the final - who knows? And as for afterwards, Germany have drawn the Czechs for the Euro 2008 qualifiers, and I think both countries will qualify because they're the best in the group."

As for who will win the competition, Franz Beckenbauer's tip is Brazil.

31-01-2006

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