Country before club? Why Klose rallies to the cause

The days were sliding away towards the World Cup and the man who may yet become the greatest goalscorer in the tournament's history spent them bathed in sweat and anxiety.

The climax of Miroslav Klose's domestic season with Bayern Munich would, in normal circumstances, have been the European Cup final against Internazionale. He didn't expect to start and no centre-forward who had scored three league goals for his club would have. He spent 28 minutes on the pitch at the Bernabeu and did not have a shot to speak of.

Klose is a straightforward man, who trained as a carpenter so he would have a trade to fall back on if football failed him, and he turned to the only thing he knew – hard work. He trained with the rest of Joachim Löw's German squad and then he trained some more, alone.

"I knew I was on probation with the national team and the only thing that would help was to train as I had never trained before," he said. "I did two workouts a day and that was apart from the work I did with the team. I did power work for my legs and torso. There were shuttle runs, sprinting, resistance training with a rubber band attached to my torso. By the end of it, I had lost five kilos but I was confident I would do well at the World Cup."

Others were not so sure. Even Löw admitted after two friendlies with Bosnia and Hungary, in which the striker had been thoroughly eclipsed by Cacau, that taking Klose was a risk. Yes, he had won the Golden Boot in Germany four years before but that was on the back of a phenomenal season with Werder Bremen that had seen him score 31 times in 40 matches. Here, Klose was coming to South Africa with the same number of league goals as Emile Heskey – and he would be the same age, 32, when the tournament started.

But unlike Heskey he had 48 international goals, a rate slightly better than one every other game. Löw was entitled to trust him in the opener against Australia. One of Klose's greatest qualities is that he is very brave. Some might not have risked flinging their head towards Mark Schwarzer's gloves as he came to meet Philipp Lahm's cross but Klose did, producing the kind of headed finish that Alan Shearer would have recognised.

After 99 caps, Klose has 20 more goals than the lion of Gosforth, two more than Gary Lineker, and one more than anyone who has ever slipped on an England shirt. And the consensus is that he is such a limited player, a throwback to another footballing age.

However, it is precisely because he recognises his own limitations that Klose is a success. "If you spend any time with him, you might think he is withdrawn or endlessly self-critical," said Löw yesterday. "But the key to him is that he understands his strengths and his weaknesses – he knows what he can do and what he can't."

His manager describes Klose as a modest man. When the German press compared him to Ruud van Nistelrooy, Klose thought it ridiculous. As someone who spent the first six years of his life in Silesia, the part of Germany that was swallowed by Poland after the war in 1945 and who still speaks Polish at home, he has always been something of an outsider.

Löw explained how before every international, he spends time with his players, individually, encouraging them, cajoling them, sometimes reassuring them. Throughout this World Cup, he has attempted to relax the squad; taking them on safari before they faced England last Sunday and then arranging a tour of Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela spent the majority of his imprisonment, prior to this afternoon's quarter-final against Argentina in Cape Town. His predecessor, Jürgen Klinsmann, said that Klose appreciates this personal touch more than most.

And when Klose ran on to the long upfield punt from Manuel Neuer in Bloemfontein, held off Matthew Upson and stretched himself to the limit to poke the ball past David James, you wonder whether he could have done it without all that repetitive weight training and all those lonely shuttle runs.

Attention England Squad: Some players raise their game on international duty

Richard Kingson

Ghana's goalkeeper has impressed during the finals, but is third choice at Wigan, where he has made only four appearances in two seasons. Kingson previously played for six clubs in Turkey over seven years in an unremarkable club career.

Asamoah Gyan

Ghana's star man at the World Cup, Gyan has scored only 11 goals in two seasons at the French club Rennes. Always performs for the national side, however, and fast closing in on the Black Stars' goalscoring record.

Robert Vittek

Journeyman striker now plays for Ankaragucu, who finished mid-table in the Turkish league last season. Slovakia's record scorer, he netted four times at the country's first World Cup finals as an independent nation.

Lukas Podolski

A failure at Bayern Munich, Podolski returned to his boyhood club Cologne, where he has scored only seven goals in 27 games. When the Poland-born striker puts on a German shirt, however, he's prolific, with two goals so far at these finals.

Kevin-Prince Boateng

Has excelled with Ghana where he failed with Portsmouth last season, after only being cleared to play for his father's country in May. Finally looking like the player Martin Jol spent £5.4m to bring to Tottenham Hotspur in 2007.

Robinho

Struggled to live up to the £32.5m price tag Manchester City paid for him two years ago, but if he reproduced his form for Brazil at Eastlands he'd be worth every penny.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
peopleComedian launches stinging attack on PM
Life and Style
The collection displayed Versace’s softer side, with models wearing flowers and chiffon dresses in unusual colourings
fashionVersace haute couture review
Arts and Entertainment
'The Leaf'
artYes, it's a leaf, but a potentially very expensive one
News
Yoko Ono at the Royal Festival Hall for Double Fantasy Live
people'I wont let him destroy memory of John Lennon or The Beatles'
News
Could Greece leave the EU?
news
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'