PORTO SEGURO, Brazil (AP) — Inside a circle of dancers wearing native costumes, Miroslav Klose stood out as he celebrated his birthday in unusual style on Monday.
It wasn’t a traditional “Happy Birthday” rendering for the Germany striker, but neither was the setting: a training pitch on an isolated patch of land on Brazil’s Atlantic coast.
Klose had just finished a fast-paced training session in hot and humid conditions but he was a willing participant in the little show.
The striker turned 36 on Monday and even being in Brazil was a little surprise. Klose had said after South Africa in 2010 that he’d probably played his last World Cup.
Four years later, Klose is not only in Germany’s squad, he is coach Joachim Loew’s only real traditional striker, a dying breed in the Bundesliga.
Germany has produced a wealth of top-level talent in recent years, but most of them are midfielders. Foreign strikers dominate the Bundesliga and Klose himself plays in Italy, for Lazio.
Klose could break the World Cup scoring record in his fourth tournament — if he gets to play.
Loew has been favoring a “false nine” system, with attacking midfielders taking on the role of scorers. Thomas Mueller is a prime example, Mario Goetze is another. But Germany has lost Marco Reus, perhaps the most dangerous of attacking midfielders, who injured his ankle in the final warm-up match, a 6-1 romp over Armenia.
Goetz scored two goals in that match but Klose also scored and set a record. His 69th goal for Germany — in 132 matches — finally surpassed Gerd Mueller’s mark of 68.
Klose needs one goal to equal the record of 15 World Cup goals held by Brazil’s Ronaldo, and again leave Mueller behind.
Germany’s general manager Oliver Bierhoff, himself a former striker, bemoans the lack of traditional center forward such as Klose.
“Unfortunately, we don’t have ‘real nines’ apart from foreigners in the Bundesliga,” Bierhoff said Monday.
Assistant coach Hansi Flick said he expects Klose to get playing time in Brazil.
“I think he will play a significant role,” Flick said. “Our rivals play differently against us now, they crowd the defense and we also have to be more versatile and to use different options in attack. But I am sure Miro will be an important player for us.”
Klose has always been Loew’s preferred striker. The Poland-born Klose can control and distribute the ball well, a skill valued by Loew for his team’s quick-passing game.
But Klose has had an injury-filled season behind him, and played only 22 games for Lazio, scoring seven goals. His fitness has been in doubt, but Klose is well known for peaking at the right time.
“The preparations have been good, the World Cup can start,” he said before the team’s departure for Brazil.
Klose used to have target practice by turning off the light switch at his home by kicking a ball at it.
Two more goals and he will be the top striker in World Cup history. In his World Cup debut in 2002, Klose scored a hat trick in a 7-1 over Saudi Arabia.
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