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Culture

German Team Still Without a Coach

Germany's national soccer team remains coach-less after the top candidate surprisingly turned down the job. The decision left the German soccer world in turmoil just two years before the World Cup.

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Ottmar Hitzfeld is keeping the national team at arm's length

Ottmar Hitzfeld, the former Bayern Munich coach, on Wednesday stunned the German soccer world by turning down the opportunity to succeed Rudi Völler, who resigned after his team exited the European Soccer Championships in the first round. Hitzfeld's appointment this week was considered a sure bet by many.

"It was just the wrong time," said Hitzfeld, who said he was completely burned out after coaching six seasons in Munich. Had the soccer federation (DFB) asked him "a year later, then I would have probably been ready."

Caught off guard

DFB head Gerhard Mayer-Vorfelder who spoke on the phone with Hitzfeld for 40 minutes, said he could accept his decision and admitted to reporters that he "didn't have a Plan B."

Gerhard Mayer-Vorfelder

Gerhard Mayer-Vorfelder was stunned by the position

"I can understand him, because I'm also friends with him," said Mayer-Vorfelder. "But I deeply regret the decision."

Speculation is already rife on who the Germans might turn to next with just two years remaining before the country hosts the World Cup. The rumor mill has so far churned out former Bayer Leverkusen coach Christoph Daum as well as former national team star Lothar Matthaues as possible candidates. A hot bet at the moment is Otto Rehhagel, who has stunned the European soccer world by taking Greece to the finals of the tournament against Portugal.

'King Otto' not interested - yet

"Greece in the final! Now Rehhacles must rescue Germany," the mass daily Bild splashed across the front page on Friday. Rehhagel, dubbed "Rehhacles" in a play on Heracles by the German press, has taken his underdogs on a sensational march through the tournament. They have beaten Portugal, France and the Czech Republic to advance to the final.

Rehhagel, who has had successful coaching stints at FC Kaiserslautern and SV Werder Bremen, has so far reacted coolly to a move back to Germany. The 65-year-old had been passed over as national team coach before, and bad blood remains between him and some DFB officials.

Rehhagel

Greece's coach Otto Rehhagel took his team farther than the Germans

"All of my thoughts right now are with my players," Rehhagel told the wire service dpa. "The team now has the right to be happy about our success, and I am obligated to only talk about my team and their problems."

Daum, 50, is considered among the best qualified to lead the team but was passed over before in 2000-2001, when he admitted to using cocaine. The scandal cost Daum his job as Bayer Leverkusen coach and made him into a persona non grata in Germany. He now coaches Fenerbache in Istanbul and analysts think a move back to Germany is unlikely.

A Dane coaching Germans?

A myriad of other options have already been bandied about. Most interesting would be the possibility that Germany breaks with tradition and hires a foreign coach. Mayer-Vorfelder told reporters he wouldn't rule out the possibility, but that the coach would have to speak fluent German.

Candidates in that pool include Frenchman Arsene Wenger, currently coach at Arsenal London, Morten Olsen, Danish national team coach and Holland's Guss Hiddink, who currently coaches PSV Eindhoven.

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