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Football

Germany win in front of huge crowd


story.brdaric.afp.jpg
Wolfsburg striker Brdaric scored the second goal against Iran

TEHRAN, Iran -- Germany remained unbeaten under new coach Juergen Klinsmann with a 2-0 win over Iran thanks to goals from Fabian Ernst and Thomas Brdaric in a friendly before a frenzied men-only crowd of 110,000.

Iran were hosting a major world football power for the first time in decades and as well as a huge crowd in the stadium there were another 150,000 fans outside who could not get tickets.

Iranian women were not allowed to see the match after the football federation on Tuesday upheld a ban on them entering stadiums even though women are the Islamic country's most passionate fans. German women were allowed to attend.

Recovering from their dismal winless showing at Euro 2004, a rejuvenated Germany under the charismatic retired striker put in another sparkling performance on the heels of an inspiring 1-1 draw against Brazil and a victory over Austria.

Germany's reserve goalkeeper Jens Lehmann, given a chance by Klinsmann to audition for the 2006 World Cup, made a series of spectacular stops to keep out Iran's dangerous attack and stake his claim on the job held by 2002 World Cup hero Oliver Kahn.

Having already qualified for the 2006 finals as hosts, Germany used the friendly to experiment, with Klinsmann giving not only Arsenal's Lehmann a chance but also testing Chelsea defender Robert Huth and Aston Villa's Thomas Hitzlsperger.

"We gained a huge amount of experience here, standing firm in front of an amazing crowd of over 100,000," Klinsmann said. "We had a very young team. We suffered from some nervousness in the first half, but after that things went smoother against a very good Iran side."

Iran were using the match as a tune-up for a World Cup qualifier on Wednesday against Qatar in Doha.

Germany have slipped to 13th in the FIFA world rankings from 11th while Iran have risen to 20th from 21st.

Germany scored in the fifth minute when Ernst, unmarked on the edge of the box, took a pass from Bernd Schneider and drilled the ball past Ebrahim Mirzapour to briefly silence the crowd.

Both sides had a number of chances in an engaging and thrill-filled first half, with Mirzapour stopping Miroslav Klose and Lehmann snuffing out several Iran attacks.

Brdaric put Germany 2-0 in front eight minutes after the break with a header in front of goal from a well-placed cross by Andreas Goerlitz that seemed to deflate Iran.

Lehmann, weary of being Kahn's understudy, reignited a row between the two goalkeepers this week by saying he expected to be the number one by 2006. Kahn, who was given a break for the Iran match, shot back he was fed up with the controversy and suggested there wasn't enough room on the team for both goalies.

Klinsmann said both have an equal shot at the job.

"Jens had some excellent saves in the first half and prevented the equaliser on several occasions," said Klinsmann. "Having two world class goalies is a nice problem to have. I know it's not easy for them to deal with the pressure."

Despite the official ban on women in the crowd, eyewitnesses saw at least a handful of veiled Iranian women in the stadium. It was unclear if they were employees of the German embassy in Tehran and had received special permits.

Several public sports have been out of bounds to women since the 1979 revolution and female Iranians can only play sports such as football in indoor, women-only sports halls.


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