By CHRISTOPHER DAVIES
IT WOULD be an exaggeration to say that all Miroslav Klose does is to score lots of goals but only just.
At 6ft, Klose is not significantly tall for a striker yet the five headed goals he scored at the 2002 World Cup underline his strength in the air. He is not lightning quick, does not possess the technique to leave defenders tackling his shadow and rarely scores from outside the penalty-area. He also does not take penalties.
Yet Klose is an international goal-machine, a player who may have struggled at club level but when he pulls on the white shirt of Germany is transformed into a striker who is rewriting the record books. He has scored 63 goals (plus 21 assists) in 117 internationals and trails Gerd Mueller’s German goalscoring record by five.
During the Euro 2012 qualifiers, Klose scored at least one goal in every single game he played, striking against all of Germany’s opponents: Belgium, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Kazakhstan and Austria. Despite winning only six caps during the qualification programme he scored nine goals and provided two assists which made him Europe’s second most prolific striker behind Klaas-Jan Huntelaar who scored 12 times in eight matches for Holland. Germany have never lost a match in which Klose has scored.
He was 34 on June 9 and knows Mario Gomez, who scored Germany’s winner in their opening Euro 2012 tie against Portugal, is a constant threat to his place in the national side. Who will lead the line has been a hot topic in the German press but coach Joachim Loew refused to join in the debate. He said: “Honestly, I don’t have the energy to worry about what other people are saying. I have a different point of view [on who to play up front] than the media or fans.”
Germany and Holland have met eight times at finals tournaments. The Germans have the slight edge with three wins against two and two draws.The 1974 World Cup final remains the most significant and memorable of the clashes with West Germany coming from behind to break Dutch hearts in a 2-1 win.
But as Germany prepare for the mouth-watering tie against Holland tonight, a must-win game for the Dutch, Klose, who came on as a substitute against Portugal, looked even further ahead and is confident of playing in his fourth World Cup in 2014 in Brazil when he hopes to score the two goals to overtake local hero Ronaldo’s record of 14 goals at the finals. Klose is also the only player to have scored five or more goals in consecutive World Cups, as well as the only one to have scored at least four goals in three different tournaments.
Injuries over the last two years have seen Klose strugggle to make the impact expected with Bayern Munich and Lazio, who he joined last summer, but 11 years after making his debut for Germany as a substitute against Albania – he scored, of course – the goals still flow.
He relishes his role as the elder statesman in the team. “I’m just the type of person who wants to lead by example,” he said. “I take no special cream that keeps me fit.”
Klose said he would assess “from year to year” what his body and mind would allow him to do. “I’m still here, and I will remain for some time.”
Yet in Klose’s mind Mueller – Der Bomber – remains untouchable whatever the record books may eventually state. Klose said that “the brand which has been Der Bomber will always remain number one” and he would “never presume to even scratch it.”
Germany won all 10 qualifying ties and Klose warned the rest of Europe: “I can say unequivocally that this is the best German team in which I’ve played. But we are not yet at the end of our journey.”
EURO 2012 CENTURIONS
Iker Casillas (Spain, 131 caps)
Anders Svensson (Sweden, 126)
Shay Given (Republic of Ireland, 122)
Giorgos Karagounis (Greece, 119)
Dennis Rommedahl (Denmark, 117)
Miroslav Klose (Germany, 117)
Robbie Keane (Republic of Ireland, 117)
Anatoliy Tymoshchuk (Ukraine, 117)
Gianluigi Buffon (Italy, 115)
Olof Mellberg (Sweden, 114)
Xavi (Spain, 109)
Andriy Shevchenko (Ukraine, 108)
…AND THOSE HOPING TO JOIN THE 100 CLUB
Damien Duff (Republic of Ireland, 98)
Lukas Podolski (Germany, 97)
Rafael van der Vaart (Holland, 97)
Xabi Alonso (Spain, 96)
Josip Šimunić (Croatia, 95)
Ashley Cole (England, 95)