Germany’s World Cup streak may be result of a multicultural team

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Reporting from Cape Town and Durban, South Africa — Former German great Franz Beckenbauer on Monday said one reason why this year’s World Cup team has played so well is because it has benefited from a blend of players from different cultures.

Eleven of Germany’s 23 players would have been eligible to play for other countries, including Polish-born forwards Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski, and 21-year-old Turkish playmaker Mesut Ozil.

“There are players that are not born in the country but of course they have German passports and maybe that’s another reason the German team is playing so well,” Beckenbauer, who won World Cups as both a player and coach for Germany, told the Associated Press.

Beckenbauer praised German Coach Joachim Loew for trusting in a promising batch of young players.

“He was brave enough to give the young players the chance to challenge and play in the German national team,” Beckenbauer said. “The style they are playing is surprising everybody, even in Germany. They have a good chance of winning the World Cup.”

But first they must get by Spain on Wednesday in a World Cup semifinal. The match will be a replay of the 2008 European Championships final won by Spain, 1-0.

Nigeria backs off suspension

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has dropped a threat to suspend the country’s soccer program because of its poor World Cup showing, a person with knowledge of the situation has told the Associated Press.

If Jonathan had made good on his threat, FIFA said it would have banned Nigeria because its rules forbid governments to interfere in football’s affairs.

Nigeria had a loss and two ties in the World Cup, finishing last in its group.

FIFA chooses officiating crews

The FIFA Referees Committee has chosen 10 referee trios to remain in South Africa for the semifinals, a third-place match and Sunday’s final.

Among them are the Mexican team of referee Marco Antonio Rodriguez and assistants Jose Luis Camargo and Alberto Morin, and the British trio headed by referee Howard Webb.

In a World Cup stained by poor officiating, Webb has drawn widespread praise for the way he has handled his games and is considered a probable choice to work the final.

Teams head by Uzbekistan’s Ravshan Irmatov and Hungarian Viktor Kassai will work the semifinals with Irmatov officiating the Netherlands-Uruguay match in Cape Town on Tuesday and Kassai doing the Germany-Spain game on Wednesday in Durban.

Assignments for the final two games will be announced following the semifinals.

Paraguay coach, striker leaving team

After reaching the World Cup quarterfinals for the first time, the Paraguayan team returned home to a heroes’ welcome Monday, then immediately found out it would have to start rebuilding.

Coach Gerardo Martino, whose four-year contract is up, and star striker Roque Santa Cruz both said they would not be back. Martino reportedly has received job offers in Argentina, Saudi Arabia and Mexico.

Thousands of fans, including President Fernando Lugo, greeted the team at the airport in Asuncion, where Lugo presented the team members with medals for meritorious service.

Dionisio Cabanas, the father of Salvador Cabanas, received a medal for his son.

The younger Cabanas probably would have been a starter on the Paraguay team but was shot in the head in a Mexico City bar in January. He is continuing his recovery at a rehabilitation clinic.

Times wire services contributed to this report.