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Germany to kick off World Cup

Germany will play in the opening game of the 2006 FIFA World Cup, the world governing body has confirmed.

New tradition
Since 1974, the tradition has been for the holders to play the first game. But as the defending champions no longer gain automatic qualification, Germany - beaten by Brazil in the 2002 final - will take part in the curtain-raiser in Munich on 9 June 2006, after a decision by the World Cup organising committee under UEFA President Lennart Johansson. There had been debate in Germany about whether the team would want the pressure of participating in the first match, a view voiced by national coach Jürgen Klinsmann.

Draw date
The finals draw will be staged in Leipzig on 9 December 2005, the committee announced. Also confirmed are the kick-off times for games, which will be 3pm, 6pm and 9pm CET for group matches, 5pm and 9pm from the round of 16, and 8pm for the final in Berlin on 9 July 2006.