Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on Saturday predicted Germany’s success in the World Cup soccer final, and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder expressed confidence that Japan’s slumping economy would recover soon.

Koizumi and Schroeder discussed topics ranging from economic policy to World Cup soccer, while flying to Japan together from the Group of Eight summit in Kananaskis, Alberta.

Schroeder hitched a ride with Koizumi aboard a Japanese government jet to watch the German national soccer team play Brazil in the World Cup final Sunday in Yokohama.

“It is the first time for Japan to welcome a foreign leader aboard a government plane,” Koizumi said. Koizumi dined with Schroeder and offered the German leader the use of his special room on the plane.

“Germany became a champion in the World Cup 12 years ago,” Koizumi said as the two leaders posed for a picture before their talks.

“The Japanese are familiar with the signs of the zodiac. Each animal symbol comes in every 12 years,” he said, predicting Germany’s success in the game Sunday.

Japanese officials quoted Koizumi as saying in the talks that he is excited about the final match between the two great teams and that he is a big fan of the German goalkeeper, Oliver Kahn.

Schroeder told Koizumi that the individual performances of Brazil’s players are superior, but added that the German team has strong teamwork and, if the team maintains its organization, it should emerge successful in the World Cup final, the officials said.

On the Japanese economy, the officials quoted Koizumi as saying, “I will revitalize the economy and carry out structural reform initiatives in order to contribute to global economic growth.”

Schroeder showed high hopes about Koizumi’s pledge, saying the Japanese economy will probably bottom out this year and ride on a recovery track next year, the officials said.

They also exchanged views on U.S. President George W. Bush’s new policy for resolving the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as the reconstruction of Afghanistan and the India-Pakistan dispute over Kashmir.

Schroeder will depart Japan on Monday, the officials said. The two leaders landed at Tokyo’s Haneda airport after taking off from Calgary, Alberta.

Schroeder flew to Canada on a German government plane, but it had to return to Germany with government officials and media representatives who traveled with the chancellor to Canada, the officials said.

He asked Koizumi to give him a lift as he could not get a seat on a commercial flight that would take him to Japan in time for the final match of the World Cup, which is being jointly hosted by Japan and South Korea.

Germany will host the next World Cup finals in 2006.

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