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Iran coach hopes for non-political World Cup

Croatian Branko Ivankovic says he expects the squad to focus on performance rather than political issues looming over the country.

india Updated: May 12, 2006 15:14 IST

Iran's soccer coach is confident that his team will not be distracted by politics during next month's World Cup in Germany.

Croatian Branko Ivankovic said he would not ban his players from answering political questions but expected them to be fully focused once the finals start on June 9.

"Obviously people can ask the players about anything that they want - we don't have any restrictions - but I would rather prefer that people built a clear wall between sport and politics," he said.

"Of course it is hard for the players to switch off completely from what is going on with Iran, but we have a young ambitious squad who I am convinced will only be thinking about football," he added.

Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sparked controversy for remarks that Israel 'should be wiped off the map' and questioning whether six million Jews were killed by the Nazis in the Holocaust.

Iran has also refused to renounce its nuclear activity. Ahmadinejad is not expected to travel to Germany for the month-long World Cup.

Ivankovic said he would not comment on Iran's nuclear ambitions or the resulting threat of sanctions, saying he did not give opinions on Croatian politics during his time as assistant coach to his own national side.