SAO PAULO (AP) – Former Brazil great Zico says he has reached a deal to coach the Iraqi national team.
Zico said he has agreed to coach Iraq through the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. He said minor details were being negotiated before the contract is signed.
''It's just a matter of putting the agreement on paper and signing it,'' Zico told SportTV and other Brazilian media.
The general secretary of the Iraqi Football Association, Tariq Ahmed, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that Zico will be in the northern Iraqi city of Irbil on Thursday to negotiate and sign the contract.
''Everything will be clear then during negotiations and then the signing of the contract,'' Ahmed said.
Signing Zico would be a boost for Iraq's struggling football program. The Iraqi association risked a FIFA suspension last year when sport officials could not agree on who would run the program, a Sunni candidate accused of ties to Saddam Hussein's regime or a Shiite candidate backed by the government.
After a year's delay granted by FIFA, officials eventually chose a third candidate who has a long history in Iraq's football community. The new head of the IFA, Najeh Hamoud, has made finding a new coach to head the team in its 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 former playmaker coached Japan when it was eliminated in the group stage of the 2006 World Cup in Germany. He also coached clubs Kashima Antlers, Fenerbahce, CSKA Moscow and Olympiakos, among others.
Zico starred for Brazil at the 1978, 1982 and 1986 World Cups.
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.
Follow Tales Azzoni at http://twitter.com/tazzoni