Kahn to play against Portugal

Germany will start former captain Oliver Kahn in goal against Portugal on Saturday in the third-place game at the World Cup.

updated: February 25, 2007 11:35 IST
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Germany will start former captain Oliver Kahn in goal against Portugal on Saturday in the third-place game at the World Cup. Coach Juergen Klinsmann announced on Friday that starter Jens Lehmann will give way to the 37-year-old Kahn. "We owe him that gesture and no one in the world is going to begrudge him that," Klinsmann said of Kahn. "He played a vital role, almost as a backroom staff member, and had a great influence on the development and maturing process of the younger players. Jens has zero problem with that and was full of compliments for Oliver Kahn." Three other starters will be missing on Saturday in Stuttgart: captain and midfielder Michael Ballack (inflamed left knee) and defenders Per Mertesacker (left heel surgery) and Arne Friedrich (twisted knee). The tournament has been hard for Bayern Munich's Kahn, a national hero who was relegated to the bench in favor of Arsenal's Lehmann. Kahn was voted FIFA's player at the 2002 World Cup. The tournament ended on a sour note for Kahn, however, when a blunder led to a goal in Brazil's 2-0 win in the final. Lehmann, 36, was Kahn's understudy at the World Cup in 1998 and 2002, and the European Championship in 2000 and 2004, but never entered a game. Klinsmann also took the captaincy away from Kahn and gave it to Ballack. At the time, Klinsmann said Lehmann's performance over several months had given him a slight edge over Kahn. Lehmann had a standout year for Arsenal, helping the club reach the Champions League final with a string of shoutouts along the way. Though Kahn and Lehmann have struggled through a tense relationship for years and have never been friends, the pair appear to have buried the hatchet at the World Cup. Moments before the team's quarterfinal shootout against Argentina, Kahn left the bench to clasp Lehmann's hand, spoke a few words of encouragement and patted him on the back. After Lehmann helped the hosts to a 4-2 win in the shootout, the two goalkeepers briefly embraced. A few days later, after Lehmann allowed two late goals in the semifinal with Italy, Kahn walked through the Italian celebrations and hugged Lehmann. "It's a wonderful story of two rivals for the same position. Even though it hurt Oliver a great deal not to be between the posts," Klinsmann said. "It shows they have commendable character and they are fantastic guys." (AP)