SAO PAULO – The Brazilian soccer great Zico is set to coach the Iraqi national team through the 2014 World Cup in his home country.
The player who starred for Brazil at the 1978, 1982 and 1986 World Cups said only minor details need to be settled. Tariq Ahmed, general secretary of the Iraqi Football Association, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that Zico will be in the northern Iraqi city of Irbil on Thursday to complete the contract.
"Everything will be clear then during negotiations and then the signing of the contract," Ahmed said.
Signing Zico would be a big boost for Iraqi soccer. Its federation risked suspension by FIFA last year when it could not agree on a soccer leader — a Sunni candidate accused of ties to Saddam Hussein's regime or a Shiite candidate backed by the government.
Granted a year's delay by FIFA, Iraqi officials chose a third candidate with a long history in the country's soccer community. Najeh Hamoud made finding a new coach for the World Cup qualifying campaign his top priority. Iraq is in a qualifying group with China, Jordan and Singapore. It will play Jordan on Sept. 2.
The 58-year-old Zico coached Japan when it was eliminated in the group stage of the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Among the club teams he coached are Kashima Antlers, Fenerbahce, CSKA Moscow and Olympiakos.
He began his career with popular Brazilian club Flamengo and also played for Italy's Udinese in the early 1980s.
Associated Press writer Hamid Ahmed contributed to this report from Baghdad.
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