Veteran Miroslav Klose has said his rivalry with Mario Gomez for Germany's single striker berth is a "gift" rather than a selection headache for coach Joachim Low ahead of Thursday's UEFA EURO 2012 semi-final against Italy. The 34-year-old Klose started all of Germany's group matches on the bench, but was preferred in the starting line-up to Gomez for Friday's 4-2 quarter-final win over Greece.
Low sprang a pre-match selection surprise by dropping Gomez, who scored three goals in the three group games, while Klose repaid his selection with his 64th international goal on his 120th appearance.
With Germany to face the Azzurri in Warsaw, Klose said both players are now working hard in training in a bid to get the nod from Loew against Italy. "Ultimately, the coach has the choice between two top strikers," Klose told German magazine Kicker. "That is a gift to him and the rest of the team."
I am not a man for the second team. I'm healthy, I feel fit and I keep up with the speed and combination plays. It's my goal to keep my place in the team.
Having shaken off the thigh injury which hindered him at the end of the domestic season in Italy, Klose said he is now back to full fitness and ready to play. "The daily training here has done me good," he said. "I am 100 percent fit and ready, I can really feel it. Everything else is now decided by the coach."
Low certainly has his work cut out trying to choose between Bayern Munich's Gomez and Lazio's Klose. While Gomez, 26, has finally transferred his impressive club form to the international stage at the EUROs, Klose is closing in on Gerd Mueller's record of 68 goals for Germany.
Having been Bayern team-mates and Germany's strike partnership before Low switched from a 4-4-2 to the current 4-2-3-1 formation, neither man is used to playing second fiddle for club nor country. "I am not a man for the second team," admitted Klose. "I'm healthy, I feel fit and I keep up with the speed and combination plays. It's my goal to keep my place in the team."
Klose has an advantage over his rival in that he has always enjoyed a good relationship with Low. "The coach and I have had some discussions, where we exchange our open views," said Klose. "I don't put my ego above what the team needs, I have never done that and I never will."