Klinsmann picks Lehmann

Frankfurt, April 8:

Germany coach Juergen Klinsmann has picked Arsenal’s Jens Lehmann over Oliver Kahn to be his starting goalkeeper at this year’s World Cup.

Bild newspaper said Klinsmann told Kahn of his decision on Friday. The mass-circulation newspaper sent its report to other news media on the same day. Lehmann and Kahn have been alternating in goal since Klinsmann became Germany coach after the 2004 European Championship. The German soccer federation (DFB) said it had no immediate comment on the report.

The DPA news agency said Klinsmann and Kahn had a private talk on Friday in Munich. Klinsmann, who commutes between his home in California and Germany, has been in Germany for the past week.

Both goalkeepers are 36. Kahn, captain of Bayern Munich, was Germany’s goalkeeper at the 2002 World Cup when Germany finished runner-up. Kahn was Germany captain until Klinsmann took over and promoted Michael Ballack to the post.

Speculation has been growing in German media in recent days that Klinsmann would decide on Lehmann, who has not conceded a goal in eight Champions League games for Arsenal on the way to the semi-finals.

Kahn is battling a rib injury and had two blunders last Saturday that allowed last-place Cologne to escape with a 2-2 draw at Bayern, the defending Bundesliga champion and runaway leader this season.

The competition for the No 1 goalkeeper’s spot on the German team for the June-July World Cup has dominated headlines in Germany for several weeks and Klinsmann had been urged not to delay his decision any longer.

German media speculated that the goalkeeper not picked to be the No 1 would choose to retire from the national team rather than sit on the bench. Lehmann and Kahn have had a tense relationship for years. But they have toned down their rivalry in recent months.