- Associated Press - Monday, July 12, 2010

BAGHDAD (AP) - Iraq has reached agreement with Wolfgang Sidka to take over as coach of the country’s national soccer team, a member of the Iraqi Football Association said Monday.

Tariq Ahmed, deputy president of the association, said the German coach will take over officially at the end of the month. The 56-year-old Sidka will sign a contract worth $500,000 on July 30, Ahmed told The Associated Press in a phone interview. He did not say how long Sidka will remain the national coach.

Sidka, who previously coached Bahrain and Qatari clubs Al-Arabi and Al-Gharafa, will replace Serbian coach Bora Milutinovic at the helm of the 2007 Asia Cup champion.

“Sidka is a respected and talented coach and with his help, we hope to give new spirit to our national team and win future championships,” Ahmed said, adding that one of Sidka’s demands before signing the contract was to bring along a fitness coach.

Iraq, the defending Asian Cup champion was drawn with North Korea and longtime foe Iran in the group stage of next year’s tournament in Doha, Qatar.

Iraq enjoyed a memorable 2007 tournament, beating Australia and South Korea on the way to the title. The team has struggled since to beat some of the weakest teams in the Middle East, fired two coaches and endured a five-month ban from international soccer.

The ban, which was imposed because of allegations of political interference in the running of the sport, was lifted in March.

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