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By ESPN Staff

Lehmann beats Kahn in Germany's World Cup race

FRANKFURT, Germany -- 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, says he will now chew over whether to retire.

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

"It was the hardest decision of my time as coach," Klinsmann said in a statement released by the German Football Association.

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

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

"I'm very surprised and extremely disappointed," Kahn said in a statement on the website of 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."

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.


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

"After the game against the U.S. we made an intense analysis of developments over the previous 22 months and then made a decision," Klinsmann said in the statement.

"Of course Oliver was disappointed but he took the decision like a true sportsman."

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.

His earlier than expected decision may have been due to pressure from Bayern.

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.