Football: Treble goal also alive for Bayern

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Germany

MANCHESTER UNITED are not the only European Cup finalists chasing a historic treble and Lothar Matthaus said yesterday that Bayern Munich's players felt the aura of positivity at their club would help them achieve theirs.

"The atmosphere has always been a positive one, there has not been a single quarrel," Mattaus said after Bayern cleared the first hurdle of three by landing their 15th German title on Sunday. "We've had fun on and off the pitch," added the veteran libero.

Midfielder Mehmet Scholl said the man responsible for the change was their coach, Ottmar Hitzfeld, who joined at the start of the season from arch rivals Borussia Dortmund. "The fact that everything has remained quiet is one of the main reasons for our good performances," Scholl said. "We owe that to the coach."

Bayern had a frustating campaign last season, losing their title to the unfancied Kaiserslautern and falling to Dortmund in the quarter-final of the European Cup. The coach, Giovanni Trapattoni, who had struggled to maintain discipline amongst his players, returned to Italy (to Fiorentina) and Hitzfeld came in.

Bayern, like Alex Ferguson's side, now hope to become the first club from their country to win the European Cup and the domestic league and cup in one season. Even the great Bayern side of the 70s, which collected plenty of silverware both at home and in Europe, failed to achieve the feat.

"It's a dream come true," Uli Hoeness, the Bayern managing director, said after his men drew 1-1 with Hertha Berlin on Sunday to build an unassailable 10-point lead over second-placed Bayer Leverkusen with three games remaining.

"We have won the title and we have two more trophies to look forward to," he added. "We are exactly where we wanted to be." Beating Werder Bremen in the German Cup final on 12 June in Berlin will not become an objective just yet.

"Now we must concentrate on our next goal, which is the European Cup," Hitzfeld said, looking forward to the final against United on 26 May in Barcelona. Victory in the competition has eluded Bayern since the last of three consecutive triumphs in 1976. They are now hoping Hitzfeld will do for them what he did for Dortmund, whom he steered to the trophy in 1997.

Nigeria

NIGERIA YESTERDAY withdrew its bid to host the 2006 World Cup to help South Africa win the right to stage the tournament.

"Part of the military government's directive is that we should support South Africa which is also bidding for the tournament," Emeka Omeruah, the Nigerian sports minister said. "Various representations had been made to Nigeria by the South African people and government to support their bid to become the first African country to host the event. Apart from the need for Africa to speak with one voice, South Africa is an economically formidable candidate," Omeruah added.

Last month Ghana withdrew its bid and said it was backing South Africa. Egypt also pulled out of the race and said it was thinking of bidding to host the Olympic Games in 2008 instead.

Nigeria's withdrawal comes as no great surprise following criticism from Fifa's president, Sepp Blatter, at the way last month's World Youth Championships were organised in the country. The withdrawal has narrowed the 2006 World Cup bidding candidates to Brazil, England, , South Africa and Morocco, which has said repeatedly it has no intention of pulling out.

Romania

A MILITARY court yesterday sentenced Vasile Ianul, the former head of Dinamo Bucharest, to 12 years in jail. Ianul has been on trial for the past two years on charges of embezzling more than pounds 1.6m during his tenure as the Dinamo president from 1991 to 1994. His crimes included paying bribes to secure victories for his club and giving money to friends and former colleagues from the Interior Ministry.

Australia

SOCCER AUSTRALIA said yesterday that selling control of several major internationals - including games against Brazil and Manchester United - to private promoters, would "restore financial stability." The organisation is pounds 1.2m in debt. The promoters will take all profits from games against a Fifa World XI in June, two games against United in July, and two games against Brazil in November.

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