Klose left to wait on fate
THE ROAD TO GOLD: With 65 minutes on the clock in Stuttgart, the fourth official flashed up the No.11 on his electronic board to signal the departure of Germany's goalscoring hero. An entire stadium rose as one to applaud the man in question as he left the field. For Miroslav Klose the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany may have come to a slightly premature end, but his hopes of pocketing the adidas Golden Shoe remain very much alive.
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Although the Werder Bremen forward was unable to add to his tally in Germany's comfortable victory over Portugal, his only realistic remaining challenger, France's Thierry Henry , has to find some chinks in Italy's fearsome defensive armoury to overhaul him in the final furlong. With two goals still separating the two contenders, the man they call Titi will need to pull out all the stops in Berlin on Sunday.
Klose fails to ignite
Before the game Klose had announced his intention of getting on the scoresheet to help Germany pick up at least one title at 'their' FIFA World Cup. The mobile striker, whose last goal came against Argentina in the quarter-finals, was restricted to one clear-cut chance, only to be denied by a smart save from Ricardo in the Portugal goal.
Nevertheless Klose can look back with great satisfaction on another impressive FIFA World Cup campaign. Having struck five times at Korea/Japan 2002, he doubled his overall finals tally with doubles against Costa Rica and Ecuador and that goal against Argentina. He is now just one strike behind Jurgen Klinsmann in the German FIFA World Cup scoring charts and four away from the legendary Gerd Muller, who recently lost his own finals record to Brazil's Ronaldo.
It was not all about Klose on the penultimate day of the tournament. Many eyes were on Lukas Podolski , the newly crowned Gillette Best Young Player of the tournament, to see if he could close the gap on his striking partner. In the event it was Bastian Schweinsteiger , another up-and-coming German talent, who grabbed the night's headlines with two stunning second-half strikes. Not content with that, it was his raking free-kick that midfielder Petit sliced into his own net on the hour mark. Portugal then grabbed a late consolation when Nuno Gomes scored with a textbook diving header two minutes from time.
Should Klose claim the crown it would be the lowest winning haul since Chile 1962. With just the Final left to play, the only man who can deny him is Henry, and to do that the Arsenal man must pierce the Italian rearguard at least twice in Sunday's Final. In view of Italy's defensive record at Germany 2006 that looks like a decidedly tall order. With the chequered flag just a few metres away Klose is well and truly in the driving seat.
Bastian Schweinsteiger (GER) 2
Nuno Gomes (POR) - 1