SPORTS

Greece drawn to take on Brazil

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – World champions Brazil will face European champions Greece in the group stage of the 2005 FIFA Confederations Cup, while hosts Germany meet Argentina in the eight-team tournament a year before the World Cup finals. Yesterday’s draw in Frankfurt put Brazil, who won the Confederations Cup in 1997 and was second in 1999, in Group B with Japan and Mexico plus Greece, while Germany is joined in Group A by Tunisia and Australia as well as Argentina. The German organizers of the 15-day tournament that includes the champions from six continents plus host Germany and World Cup holders Brazil are hoping it will be a successful dress rehearsal for the 2006 World Cup finals. FIFA officials called it the most attractive field ever assembled for the biennial Confederations Cup. «We’re delighted to be pitted against Brazil,» said Greece’s coach Otto Rehhagel after the draw in Frankfurt’s opera house. «Brazil is the standard everything is measured by. It’s going to be a highlight. We’ve already showed nothing is impossible.» Greece qualified as the surprise winners of Euro 2004, Argentina as runners-up to Brazil in the Copa America, Japan as winner of the Asia Cup, Tunisia as African champions and Australia as the best from Oceania. Three-time world champions Germany, whose last tournament victory was with coach Juergen Klinsmann as a striker at Euro ’96, qualified for the Confederations Cup as host. Brazil has won the World Cup five times. Klinsmann said he was looking forward to competitive matches for his team, otherwise limited to friendlies, ahead of 2006. «It’s going to be a good rehearsal for the World Cup for us,» said Klinsmann, whose team qualifies for the World Cup as hosts. «There are a lot of top-rate teams and we’re hoping to make it through to the final. We’ll see how far the team has progressed.» The Confederations Cup final is set for June 29 in Frankfurt’s 48,132-seat Wald Stadium, in the midst of a 126-million-euro facelift due to be finished in the spring. Other venues for the test of Germany’s soccer infrastructure ahead of 2006 are Hanover, Cologne, Leipzig and Nuremberg – all of which will have undergone extensive renovation. France won the past two tournaments, retaining its crown in 2003 by beating Cameroon in the final at the Stade de France. «In terms of the teams participating, the Confederations Cup has never been so attractive,» said Chuck Blazer, organizing committee chairman. «Fans will be able to watch eight of the best teams in the world a year before the World Cup.» Japan coach Zico and Australia’s Frank Farina said the tournament was an invaluable test for their teams. «Japan is in its third Confederations Cup,» Zico said. «And we intend to perform well. We will have a chance to play well.» Farina added: «When we get the opportunity to play in good competitions our team lifts. It helps us to play better.»