As the news filtered through on Monday that Miroslav Klose will be Germany’s only recognised striker in their final 23-man squad, the reaction amongst fans and pundits was not of surprise, but of a calm and inevitable acceptance. This speaks volumes for a man who continues to defy expectations in the footballing world.
This will be Klose’s fourth World Cup and possibly his most significant yet, as the veteran who turns 36 next week will bid to become the tournament’s all-time top goalscorer. He currently sits in second place alongside compatriot Gerd Müller with 14 goals and one behind the record-holder Ronaldo.
However, achieving this may not be as straightforward as it sounds for the Lazio striker. Despite being the only recognised centre-forward in Die Mannschaft, his nation are not exactly short on attacking options with the likes of Mario Götze, Thomas Müller, Marco Reus, André Schürlle and Lukas Podolski all capable of performing in a variety of attacking roles. None of those players can boast the experience or international pedigree of ‘Il Panzer’ though.
Klose has enjoyed a rejuvenation at club level during his time in Italy, earning the same talismanic status he holds with the national side within no time at all at Lazio. Scoring a 92nd minute winner in his first Rome derby in October 2011 certainly did no harm to his relationship with the Biancoceleste faithful, and his popularity has rapidly grown since that moment. With 13 goals in his first season and 15 in his second, the German seemed to be successfully ignoring his advancing years. However, recurring injury problems during this campaign reduced his impact in a disappointing season for the capital side, even as the 35-year-old still managed to get on the scoresheet seven times.
It took Klose a similarly small amount of time to make an impact at his first World Cup way back in 2002. The German scored five times, including a hat-trick against Saudi Arabia, to help his country reach the final. Another five goals at Germany ‘06 helped him secure the Golden Boot as his side reached the semi-final stage. Finally, Klose was prolific again in South Africa 2010, scoring four goals but again agonisingly seeing his country fall short as they were narrowly defeated by eventual champions Spain in the semi-finals.
With an understanding of Klose’s World Cup history comes an understanding of why the veteran will be so driven to succeed when Brazil 2014 kicks off for his country on June 16 against Portugal. The Lazio man has been prolific in every tournament, finishing top scorer in one edition and second top scorer in the other two, yet has seen his side fall at the business end of every championship.
You would be hard pushed to find a more motivated player this summer. Klose will not only be striving for personal glory in becoming the tournament’s most prolific player in history, but also for national glory as Germany launch their bid to end a 24-year wait and win their fourth World Cup. With 131 caps for his country and 68 international goals, you would not begrudge the striker that success should he manage it.
For an international career as decorated as that of Miroslav Klose to end with a World Cup winner’s medal and a position at the top of the tournament’s all-time scoring charts sounds like an unlikely fairytale success story – yet you should not bet against Il Panzer defying the odds just one last time.