When most people think about the great players of the World Cup, they cast their mind back decades to the age of Pele, of Maradona or even Ronaldo. He might not be quite as illustrious as these famous players, but this year could see one German earn his place in the record books as the top goalscorer in World Cup history – he is Miroslav Klose.
Of the German squad, Klose is easily the most experienced. He is the oldest, at 36, and has the most caps, 132. He is Germany’s all-time top goalscorer, with 69 goals for his country. In an age of football where the striker is more expendable than ever, Klose was still one of the first names on the German team sheet and is their only forward option in Brazil. Klose has been instrumental in Germany’s recent successes in the World Cup, although he still lacks the winner’s medal that would put him in the upper echelons of the game.
Klose’s first World Cup was in South Korea and Japan in 2002. He’d made his international debut the year before and impressed by scoring two hat-tricks in friendlies heading into the tournament, making him the top choice for coach Rudi Voller. He didn’t take long to make his mark on not only the German side but also the World Cup itself. In the side’s opening match, Klose bagged a hat-trick helping his side to a massive 8-0 win over Saudi Arabia. He kept his scoring streak going with goals against Ireland and Cameroon in the remaining group matches to put Germany through at the top of their group. Klose didn’t manage to score a goal in the knock-out stage during Germany’s run to the final, and came runner-up to Ronaldo in the race for the Golden Boot.
Klose won the Golden Boot for himself in 2006 on home soil in Germany as his team finished third. With a double in the tournament opener against Costa Rica and another brace in the final group match against Ecuador; Klose added to his tally with perhaps his most important goal for his country by equalising against Argentina in the quarter-finals. Germany went on to win on penalties, with Klose being spared the nerve-jangling 5th penalty as Esteban Cambiasso’s penalty was saved. Germany went out of the competition to Italy, who won a thrilling encounter with two goals in the last two minutes of extra time. Klose’s 5 goals was the lowest winning haul since the 1962 World Cup, but helped him onto 10 World Cup goals, making him 7th equal on the all-time list.
In the last World Cup in South Africa, Klose pulled himself to one behind Ronaldo’s record of 15 with a further four goals. He once again netted in Germany’s first match, this time against Australia but didn’t do his record-breaking chances any favours as he was sent off in the next match against Serbia making him miss the final group game against Ghana. Klose returned in the last 16 and set Germany on their way to a memorable 4-1 win over England and scored a brace in the quarters too against Argentina. For the third tournament in a row Germany reached the semi-finals, but again Klose couldn’t score to help his side as they were defeated by eventual winners Spain. Compatriot Thomas Muller took the Golden Boot this time, with a goal in the third-placed play-off sealing the honour, but Klose edged ever closer.
Klose only needs one goal in Brazil to tie Ronaldo’s record as the tournament’s all-time goal-scorer, and only needs two to take the title for himself. It may be a tough group for Germany, up against Portugal, Ghana and the USA, but with the side being one of the favourites to go far in the competition, the chances of Klose hitting the strike he needs are good.
Klose already holds the record of being one of only two players to have scored five goals in two World Cups and the only one to have scored at least four in three World Cups. I think he’ll be able to add all-time World Cup goalscorer to that after this year’s tournament in Brazil. Being one of the legendary winners of the tournament, though, might be a feat beyond him – with this almost certainly his last shot at glory for Germany. Miroslav Klose is one of the best strikers to grace the World Cup, but might be less heralded in future without winning the trophy, even if he sits atop the all-time scoring table.