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By ESPN Staff

Lehmann beats Kahn to World Cup jersey

FRANKFURT, April 8 (Reuters) - Coach Juergen Klinsmann has named Jens Lehmann as Germany's first choice goalkeeper for the 2006 World Cup ahead of former captain Oliver Kahn.

Kahn, who was extremely disappointed by the decision, will now chew over whether to retire from international soccer.

Klinsmann decided to pick Arsenal's Lehmann ahead of Bayern Munich's more experienced Kahn after a meeting with his coaching team on Friday.

Both Germany's senior goalkeepers are 36. Kahn has played 84 times for the World Cup hosts while Lehmann has won 29 caps.

"I'm very surprised and extremely disappointed," Kahn said in a statement released by champions Bayern.

"In the coming weeks I'll concentrate on my work with Bayern in the Bundesliga and German Cup. As to my future in the national team, I'll think it over in the coming weeks and comment in due course."

Kahn captained Germany to the final of the last World Cup in South Korea and Japan, and was named player of the 2002 tournament.

Klinsmann's decision follows days of heightened speculation, fuelled by a couple of bad mistakes by Kahn and Lehmann's faultless performances for Arsenal in the Champions League.

In four games against Real Madrid and Juventus, Arsenal did not concede a goal on the way to the semi-finals.

"I'm delighted the decision went in my favour," Lehmann said on the German Football Association website.

"I'm going to throw myself into it even more than I have done up to now, so as to live up to the requirements of the World Cup. I'll do everything to do justice to the confidence the coaching team has placed in me."

COSTLY MISTAKE

A mistake by Kahn in Germany's 4-1 win over the United States in a friendly last month may have sealed his fate.

"In August last year Oliver was slightly ahead," Klinsmann told reporters in Munich after announcing the decision.

"Then we continued our discussion and we realised that Jens had gained a lot of ground over the past months and is now that little bit ahead of Oliver."

One of Klinsmann's first acts as coach after taking over in 2004 was to strip Kahn of the captaincy and inform the Bayern keeper he faced a battle with Lehmann for the first choice position. The coach has since alternated the two players, saying he would make a final decision at the start of May.

"To tell Oliver Kahn today that he was not going to be the number one was the toughest and hardest decision in my somewhat fresh career as a coach," Klinsmann said.

The 41-year-old, who is in his first coaching job, certainly needed courage to stand up to Bayern after powerful figures within the club criticised him for putting Kahn under pressure with his wait-and-see policy.

The club's sporting director Uli Hoeness this week accused Klinsmann of waging a campaign of "psychological terror" on Kahn by not announcing his decision sooner.

The uncertainty was to blame for Kahn's two errors in a 2-2 draw with Cologne in the Bundesliga last weekend, the club said.

Germany get the World Cup underway with a Group A game against Costa Rica on June 9 at Bayern Munich's stadium.