- Miroslav Klose speaks exclusively with FIFA.com
- 16-goal record-holder reminisces about his World Cup history
- Germany's attacking coach looks ahead to their Russia 2018 campaign
When the 2018 FIFA World Cup™ kicks off in Russia in mid-June, one name that has been on the competition’s team sheets since 2002 and has since made its way into the sport’s history books will be missing – that of Miroslav Klose.
The striker scored his 16th goal at the finals during Germany’s World Cup triumph in 2014, surpassing none other than Brazilian legend Ronaldo in the process. The man they call 'Miro' finally hung up his boots in 2016 after winning 137 international caps, including 24 World Cup appearances, scoring 71 goals for his country and collecting numerous titles and accolades along the way.
Fans can console themselves with the knowledge that the 39-year-old will travel to Russia for this summer’s competition where, as an attacking coach for the reigning champions, he will use his experience to help the latest generation of strikers such as Timo Werner to improve even further.
FIFA.com sat down with the affable German to talk about his World Cup experiences, the tournament in Russia and his record.
FIFA.com: You played in four World Cups on four different continents. Surely nobody is better placed to describe what taking part in the competition means to a player?
Miroslav Klose: A World Cup is always something special and simply indescribable – and being able to hold something in your hands at the end of it all is just incredible. That’s why I’m very glad that we became world champions in 2014, as we always got close to winning the title. We got to the Final in 2002 before losing twice in the semi-finals.
Germany are always known and feared for being a tournament side. Is that simply a cliché or is there some truth to it?
We’ve always managed to form a strong unit at each tournament, and that has always taken us a long way. That spirit and dynamism doesn’t just emerge during the competition; it starts to come together during our preparations.
Can Germany defend their title in 2018?
We can go a long way, but we need to develop that team spirit once again. Germany have some excellent young talent and great players of an outstanding calibre, but they need to show that out on the pitch. The concept of being a unit is always on my mind – the team is always the main priority for me. If every individual performs to the best of his ability, the team will certainly benefit from that.
Could there be a surprise in store?
At every World Cup there is a team that makes you think that if they play well, something could happen. Sometimes that means they can even beat the big teams.
Which players will leave their mark on this World Cup?
It’s usually the same individuals – superstars such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi – but every team has special players. It might not always be the household names we all know, but each side has some incredibly important individuals, and you have to identify and evaluate them accordingly.
What are your general expectations for the tournament in Russia?
It will be something very special. We experienced it at the Confederations Cup. With so many enthusiastic spectators, the atmosphere in the stadiums is great. It will be a fantastic World Cup.
Let’s move on to you personally. You are the World Cup’s all-time leading goalscorer. Are you aware of your status as an icon?
I don’t personally think of myself as an icon, but it’s definitely an incredible thing. Scoring 16 goals at the World Cup is something you only usually dream about. But, as ever, I’ve got to pay tribute to my team, as I could never have done it without them.
Can this record ever be broken?
There are some fantastic players around, so I think there’s a good chance that it’ll be broken at some point, but I’ll just wait and see what happens. I won’t begrudge anyone for managing it. I’m not someone who clings on to records.
You scored your 16th World Cup goal against the hosts in that memorable 7-1 semi-final win in Brazil...
That was amazing. I’m often asked why I needed two attempts to score that goal. Brazil’s goalkeeper made a great save the first time, but the follow-up went in. It was a very special match. To play so well in Brazil and take our goalscoring chances so well – it was a fantastic team performance.
What is your most treasured World Cup memory?
Without a doubt, it’s winning the title in 2014. So many images still run through my mind, particularly when I hold the Trophy in my hands as I did at the Draw. Having said that, it doesn’t give me goosebumps now and make me wish I was still out on the pitch. There are so many other moments too, like my first World Cup in 2002 and reaching the Final, or the first group match against Saudi Arabia, that I’ve been reminded of recently. Their captain that day [Sami Al Jaber] was also at the group draw in Moscow. We did our drug tests at the same time in 2002. All of the stories, pictures and memories regularly come flooding back.
Your new role is as an attacking coach with the German Football Association (DFB). With this in mind, what does the ideal striker look like in 2018?
Personally, I always think that players like Diego Forlan are fantastic. He was the complete striker, and that’s extremely important these days. [Robert] Lewandowski, for example, has something special, a little bit of everything and a whole host of strengths. You constantly need to keep adapting, as you could be facing three, four or even five at the back. That means you always have to play a little differently, and having many different qualities makes you more unpredictable. Aerial ability and a solid right foot aren’t enough anymore.
After you announced your retirement, your long-term team-mate and frequent assist provider, Mesut Ozil, wrote: “Thanks for your goals, Miro. You’re already a legend.” What do you think of the Arsenal star?
I played alongside him at many tournaments. He has something very special about him and is extremely fleet-footed. I always found players with a left foot very interesting, as they turn differently. It’s important for a striker to have someone like him playing behind them. He can thread the ball through gaps and ties opponents up in knots to create space for you. He’s a very clever player. Football has become an extremely fast game that often comes down to how quickly you can transfer the idea in your head to your feet. That’s the sign of a good player, and that’s what he can do. Many players don’t have that courage, or they see the gaps but react too slowly.
Are there any players that you think are comparable to Ozil?
The one that immediately comes to mind is Johan Micoud at Werder Bremen, who was also a very quick thinker. He was one of the best footballers I ever played with.