Football: Beckenbauer fears Brazil

FRANZ BECKENBAUER believes Brazil poses a greater threat to Germany's hopes of staging the 2006 World Cup than England, but the suggestion could be another attempt to belittle England's bid. The initial deadline for applications is two days away.

The newly elected vice-president of the German Football Association and head of Germany's World Cup organising committee personally handed in his country's bid to Fifa, the world game's ruling body.

England, Brazil, South Africa, Egypt, Ghana and Morocco are the other six nations vying for the right to stage the tournament, with the latter three regarded as virtual non-starters. Candidates have until 30 April next year to confirm their official bid. A Fifa spokesman said he did not expect Argentina and Nigeria to apply.

Beckenbauer said: "It's up to us. We have to show the world that Germany is the best place to organise a World Cup. But I regard Brazil as the more dangerous rival to Germany than England, although we still have a lot of homework to do."

Beckenbauer thinks South Africa, the apparent choice of the Fifa president, Sepp Blatter, will struggle to meet the strict criteria for hosting the World Cup laid down by the game's governing body. Fifa require that eight to 12 stadiums have a capacity of at least 40,000, with one ground able to accommodate 80,000-plus and another over 60,000.

In the first week of January, Fifa will start asking questions concerning security, taxes, customs, visas and telecommunications, before delving into other matters like infrastructure, accommodation and transport facilities in the bidding countries, as well as arrangements for ticket sales and the specific circumstances of the grounds included in the bids.

Beckenbauer and the German FA's president, Egidius Braun, are soon to meet the German finance minister, Oskar Lafontaine, and the home secretary, Otto Schily, to ask them to abolish certain taxes, which if enforced would reduce Fifa's profits.

n Joseph Blatter, the chairman of Fifa, is concerned about the influx of money into football watering down its real value as a people's sport. In an article in Germany's sports weekly Kicker, Blatter also says he is also concerned by the influence of business and television on the game. "Even accepting the rules of supply and demand, we must still ask ourselves whether too much money comes into play, whether the players have lost their moderation and become too egotistical and influential? Is not the influence of industry, television, and even politics too great?"

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