Under fire throughout Germany’s build-up to the 2010 FIFA World Cup™, Miroslav Klose last night answered his critics in style. Scorer of his side’s second in a 4-0 win over Australia, the Bayern Munich striker's thumping header past Mark Schwarzer took his tally at senior international level to 49 goals from 97 games.
What's more, the goal which took him to third place in his country’s all-time top scorers’ charts was an emphatic riposte to his doubters. Indeed, prior to the tournament many pointed to the fact that Klose found the net just three times in the Bundesliga in 2009/10, with the 32-year-old hitman spending much of the campaign on the bench.
“You can certainly say it’s a relief,” the most experienced player in Joachim Low’s squad told FIFA.com in an exclusive interview following the final whistle in Durban. “The result has given us huge self-confidence, especially as we’re such a young team.”
Winner of the adidas Golden Shoe on home soil at Germany 2006, such was the level of vitriol slung his way that he was forced to repeatedly plead for patience. “Let me be judged on my first World Cup match,” said Klose, with coach Low backing his front-man saying “Miro’s form is getting better all the time”.
I’ve always known what I was capable of, which is why I didn’t lose my self-belief.
Low’s decision to keep faith with Klose at this summer’s finals was understandable given that the striker hit five goals at both Korea/Japan 2002 and Germany 2006. Fit, determined, supreme in the air and a team player, Klose looked very much back to his old self against the Socceroos.
“I’ve always known what I was capable of, which is why I didn’t lose my self-belief. And I’ve always felt that the other players accepted me as part of the team,” continued the former Kaiserslautern and Werder Bremen goalgetter. “But my goal return is getting worse and worse: in 2002 I hit a hat-trick in our opening match, two in our 2006 opener and just once this year. Clearly there’s no point in me turning up in 2014!”
However, Klose made it clear that despite the flood of goals against the Socceroos, Germany will not getting carried away ahead of their second Group D match against Serbia in Port Elizabeth on Friday: “So far we’ve only won one match. We may have scored four goals, but there will be much tougher opponents to come. It’s better just to focus on the next game.”
Extra motivation, lest he need it, will come from the clutch of records drawing within reach. His 11th FIFA World Cup goal on Sunday brought him level with Jurgen Klinsmann as his country’s joint-second top scorer at the finals and just three behind the legendary Gerd Muller. What's more, four further strikes would take him level with the all-time record of 15 finals goals scored by Ronaldo.