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Sports fan Condoleezza Rice worries about US exit

Written by: Staff
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WASHINGTON, June 17 (Reuters) - Usually preoccupied with an exit strategy for US troops from Iraq, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was worried about another US departure -- the national team leaving the World Cup in Germany.

A sports fan, renowned for correctly predicting American football results, Rice declined to say whether the United States would beat the Azzurri in their Group E match in Kaiserslautern today as she hosted her Italian counterpart.

''Obviously, I would like to see the United States do well,'' she told reporters at a joint news conference with Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema yesterday.

''But even I, a pure novice in watching soccer, know that they will have to play a lot better than they did (in a 3-0 loss to Czech Republic)... in order to avoid a very early exit from the World Cup.'' D'Alema also retained a diplomatic tone.

''We were quite cautious and prudently decided that it would be better to meet before that match so that nobody would be in a bad mood, no bad feelings, no shadow looming over relations between our two countries,'' he said.

Italy won their opener 2-0 against Ghana in the month-long tournament that ends with the July 9 final in Berlin.

REUTERS DH RAI0530

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