May 04, 2009

This June, former United States manager Bora Milutinovic will lead his current team, Iraq, to South Africa to participate in the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup. The coach, who recently told that he believes his Iraqi squad can win the tournament, spoke with about the competition, including what it would mean to face the Americans.

"Oh, that would be great," he said. "It would really be great for us and also for them -- especially as it would mean that we have both got through."

To meet in the second round, both would have to advance, a prospect that's more difficult for the Red, White, and Blue. The squad he led during the 1994 World Cup is pared alongside Italy, Brazil, and Egypt. Milutinovic's current team, which surprised the world when it won the Asian championships in 2007 to book its ticket to South Africa, was drawn into Group A with the hosts, New Zealand, and Spain.

Milutinovic also had some kind words for the organizing body of U.S. soccer.

"The U.S. Soccer Federation is a great example of a soccer federation," he said. "In my time, it was excellent and the coaches were also. I don't like to compare the team they have now to my team at the 1994 World Cup, but they have a good coach and are a very well-organized team. Perhaps they have no outstanding stars but they have good players and a very good team. Soccer in the USA is growing so much."

The Serbian, who has coached a record five squads to the World Cup, also showed he keeps tabs on the Mexican national team, another squad he used to helm.

"There is no big problem with Mexico," he said. "I have no doubts that Mexico will go to the World Cup. Six teams are in the fight to qualify and three will go through. The position of Mexico at the moment is not very good. But it doesn't matter if they finish first or not. They have the game in Salvador next and after that they have some home games."

El Tri, which sits fourth on three points after three matches, has a decided home-field advantage thanks to Estadio Azteca. The team's former coach clearly remembers it and points to it as a major reason Mexico will advance.

"If they win every game they play at home they could finish in second place," Milutinovic said. "They have the talent to finish in the top three. We will see them in South Africa. To be coach of Mexico is not easy, the culture and the football culture is very specific, but I am not worried."

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