JOSEF LANGER/AIPS* in VIENNA: Franz Beckenbauer may have captained and managed German teams to World Cup glory in 1974 and 1990 respectively but he is not looking beyond Brazil for this year’s winners.
Beckenbauer, who retired from the FIFA executive committee in 2011, offered his opinion at the annual congress of Sports Media Austria in Bad Ischl.
He also insisted he would not be a candidate for next year’s FIFA presidential election and that the 2022 World Cup in Qatar could only be played in the winter.
Now 68, ‘Der Kaiser’ said he considered the draw for the finals as having thrown up comparatively well-balanced groups except for “Group D with Italy, England and Uruguay.”
Germany, thought Beckenbauer, should encounter few problems in reaching the knockout stages. He said: “The US is improving all the time and have some good players bu they are not strong enough to be a serious rival. The same goes for Ghana. As for Portugal, they depend too much on Cristiano Ronaldo. Germany will win the group.”
For all his confidence in his fellow Germans, led by Joachim Low, Beckenbauer described World Cup holders Spain as the most likely European challengers for glory against the threat posed by the Brazilian hosts.
He said: “I fancy the Spaniards to be the top European teams. People say the Brazilian team may be too too young so we have to look to see whether the experience of the Spaniards or the youthful carefreeness of the Brazilians asserts itself.
“But for me Brazil are the top favourite, more than Spain. The expectations in Brazil are incredibly high. Everybody there is confident they will win the World Cup.
“There comes other likely favourites such as Germany and Italy but not England. I also rate all the South Americans very strongly, not only Brazil.”
Beckenbauer discounted any African challenge on the basis that “although their players all play in Europe their team style is still too individualistic. This is their biggest old problem.”
On one factor Beckenbauer was clear, he will not be a candidate next year for FIFA president.
He said: “I held just about every possible position in football and I had a term on the FIFA executive committee. I know that many people said Pele or me would be an ideal president of FIFA. But when I look into the eyes of my family, the children, the decision is clear: No.
“Other people want go into FIFA but I chose to step out.”
Beckenbauer was a member of the FIFA executive who, in December 2010, voted for Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup finals but he remains convinced that a summer staging is out of the question because of the heat.
He said: “In summer you cant play there. You must cool the stadia which will cost million of dollars. This is not necessary. They should switch to winter because in winter the temperature is normal and then it is possible to play. This World Cup can only take place in winter time.”
** AIPS is the international sports journalists’ association with 10,000 members worldwide. More information: www.AIPSmedia.com
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