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Mahdavikia returns to Iran soccer squad

PTV - The veteran Iranian midfielder Mehdi Mahdavikia has been invited to join Iran's national soccer squad in its friendly match against Kenya.

The 31-year-old Frankfurt player, capped 103 times for Iran, was invited on March 12 to join the national team's training camp on Saturday.

Iran's coach Ali Daei has called up 37 players for the March 14 match against the Kenyan outfit, but the 30-year-old Ali Karimi, who has been capped 109 times for Iran, is not among the players chosen for the friendly.

Karimi, often referred to as the "Asian Maradona," was suspended from the national team in May after criticizing the Iranian Football Federation (IFF).

Earlier, the 2004 Asian Player of the Year Karimi voiced his readiness to serve Iran's soccer team to help the side qualify for the 2010 World Cup.

The 28-member Kenyan squad, coached by Antoine Hey, arrived in the Iranian capital Tehran early Thursday morning. Kenya's foreign-based players will not accompany their country's team in the friendly.

Ali Daei's men are slated to play three friendlies to round out their performance in the World Cup qualifier against Saudi Arabia in Tehran on March 28.

Meanwhile, the Iranian outfit will also play another friendly against Qatar in Tehran on March 13 and will visit Kuwait on March 23.

Iran is drawn in Group B of the 2010 World Cup qualifiers along with Saudi Arabia, South Korea, the UAE and North Korea.

Iran currently sits in third place with six points from four games. South Korea tops the standings with eight points, while North Korea is second on seven. The UAE is at the bottom with just one point.

The top two teams will automatically qualify for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa.

Iran squad

Goalkeepers: Seyed Mehdi Rahmati, Vahid Taleblou, Mohamad Mohammadi

Defenders: Seyed Jalal Hosseini, Hadi Aghili, Khosro Heidari, Ali Hamoudi, Hossein Kaebi, Majid Gholamnejad, Sattar Zareh, Mohsen Bengar, Hasan Ashjari, Sheys Rezaei

Midfielders: Maziar Zareh, Hossein Kazemi, Reza Khalatbari, Mohamad Nouri, Ehsan Hajsafi, Ahmad Jamshidian, Mehrzad Madanchi, Masoud Shojaei, Javad Nekounam, Mehdi Mahdavikia

Strikers: Gholamreza Rezaei, Jalal Rafkhaei, Siavash Akbarpour and Vahid Hashemian.  

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