THIS has been a record-breaking World Cup for Miroslav Klose whichever way you look at it: he earned his first red card in a Germany shirt against Serbia, his 50th international goal against England, his 100th appearance against Argentina and now, before the semi-final against Spain, he is one goal away from equalling Brazil legend Ronaldo’s all-time record of 15 goals in World Cup matches.
He is already the only player to score five goals in back-to-back tournaments (2002 and 2006).
Not that these records bother him. “Given the choice, I would rather be world champion than beat Ronaldo’s record,” is how Klose put it after the 4-0 win over Argentina. “But I still have the same approach whether things are going badly or if I’m doing well, and it’s all about working hard.”
He lost five kilograms in preparation for the tournament and spent months doing individual training exercises with Germany’s backroom staff of American fitness coaches from Athletes’ Performance. “We worked on stability and power exercises for my legs and torso, shuttle runs, running exercises with a rubber resistance band, sprinting training, and lots of massages,” he told Bild newspaper.
“And clearly all that training wasn’t in vain.”
In his early days, Klose did not need to rely on extra training-ground work.
Instead, determination, genes, and confidence helped get him his big break.
He was born in Poland and moved to France before settling in Kusel, Germany, where he struggled at school. He dropped two years because he hardly spoke any German, and could only speak Polish. He has since claimed that period shaped his ambition and desire to work hard. The genes come from his father, Josef, who played professional football for Auxerre, while his mother Barbara won 82 caps for Poland as a handball player.
The confidence: well, as a teenager languishing in the Kaiserslautern youth team, he approached first-team coach Otto Rehhagel and said, “Look, I think I deserve a chance in the first team: what do you reckon?” Rehhagel was so impressed with his attitude that he picked him. Klose scored nine goals in his first full season for the club he used to support (he still remembers watching them in section 11 of the Betzenberg at every home game in his Olof Marschall shirt).
Despite scoring in his first two internationals, against Albania and Greece, the expectations of Klose were low when Germany’s then coach Rudi Voller picked him for the 2002 World Cup squad. That soon changed: Klose scored a hat-trick of headers in the opening game, an 8-0 win over Saudi Arabia.
Further headers against Ireland and Cameroon left him second-top scorer for the tournament, and gave rise to the misconception that his threat was purely an aerial one. “I could see even then that there was more to him than his heading, even if no-one else did,” said Argentina’s 1978 World Cup-winning coach Cesar Luis Menotti at the time. “There are some remarkable details to his game: the way he shakes off opponents, shields the ball, prepares goal chances. I like him a lot.” In 2006, Klose came into the World Cup as the Bundesliga’s top scorer after a prolific season with Werder Bremen (25 goals in 26 games). As one of the senior players under coach Jurgen Klinsmann, Klose was won over by the fitness programme Klinsmann introduced through Athletes’ Performance.
The world knew all about Klose then but still could not stop him. He scored another five goals (two against Costa Rica, two against Ecuador and one against Argentina) and this time he won the Golden Boot as the leading scorer.
“I was in the best form of my life at that World Cup and I was running faster than ever before, because the fitness guys were teaching me to sprint with my knees higher,” he explained.
Klose spent most of last season on the bench at Bayern Munich but once again has peaked at the World Cup, scoring more goals in three and a half games in South Africa than he managed all season (11 starts and 14 sub appearances) at Bayern. “I’ve had this long-term goal and I feel better than I have for a long time.”
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