An Enduring Touch Proves As Essential As Ever

Updated: 22 June 2014 08:29 IST

Miroslav Klose scored his 15th FIFA World Cup goal in the match against Ghana to equal Ronaldo's record at the biggest stage.

An Enduring Touch Proves As Essential As Ever
Uplifting himself: Miroslav Klose celebrates in his trademark way after scoring against Ghana. © AP

The botched front flip was not vintage Miroslav Klose, but the critical goal that led to it was definitely a classic Klose poach.

Even if he is now an injury-prone, 36-year-old substitute, playing for Germany still brings out the essential man in him, and less than two minutes after he trotted onto the field in Fortaleza, Klose smelled an opportunity and pounced. (Full match report: Germany vs Ghana | Highlights)

The far post has been one of his happiest hunting grounds through the years, and after teammate Benedikt Howedes flicked on a Toni Kroos corner kick, Klose was moving toward empty space near the goal line: a half-step and a fully formed thought ahead of the closest Ghana defender.

In a slide and a flash, the work was done as he extended his right foot and half-volleyed the ball into the net.

It was his first touch of what will certainly be his last World Cup, and it gave Germany the equalizer, salvaging a point and a 2-2 tie that could make life more complicated for the United States.

It also gave Klose what he had been chasing in earnest since 2010: a 15th World Cup goal and a share of the career scoring record with Ronaldo, the bullish Brazilian.

Ronaldo handled the news in elegant, wholly modern fashion: tweeting "welcome to the club" to Klose in three languages - English, Portuguese and German.

He was most expansive in Portuguese: "I can imagine your happiness." (Also read: Ronaldo hails Klose)

Ronaldo was the far better year-round striker, a force of nature for both club and country when he was not battling knee injuries. He was also part of two Cup-winning teams: in 1994 and 2002.

But Klose, who has yet to win the ultimate soccer trophy with Germany and whose club career has been more unspectacular, has the clear edge in staying power.

Ronaldo, still only 37, retired three years ago and is part of the organizing committee for this World Cup. But Klose just signed another one-year contract with his Italian club team, Lazio, and happily accepted one more call from one of his biggest fans, Germany's manager, Joachim Low.

"When he's fit, he is terribly important to my team," Low told Bild, the German newspaper, before the Cup. "His secret is his professionalism. His strength is his will."

The other star forwards of Klose's generation are gone at this level. Thierry Henry, at 36, is a Major League Soccer player only and is doing commentary here for the BBC. Ruud van Nistelrooy, 38, is retired and doing commentary here for ESPN. Ryan Giggs, the Welsh winger who played until  40 for Manchester United, retired last month and is an assistant manager at United to Louis van Gaal.

But Klose is still in the arena, matching wits and elbows in the penalty area in Brazil with younger but not necessarily hungrier men.

"He was on the field for two minutes and he scored," Low told reporters in Fortaleza on Saturday. "He is a player who can come on and have a decisive impact. That's great for me, for the team and for him."

Low made an unusual move by picking Klose as his only true striker for this team.

"I was surprised by some of Low's choices," Franz Beckenbauer told France Football before the Cup. "To take just one center forward is a big risk."

But for now, with Thomas Muller scoring three goals in a more hybrid role in Germany's opening match, Low is getting production in Brazil. He also got something of a setback Saturday night: something he had feared after the team's blazing 4-0 start against Portugal last week.

This was another wild ride of a match in an offensive-minded World Cup: scoreless at the half despite ample opportunities and then unchained in the second half. By the end, after all the energy spent, most of the combatants looked exhausted and were leaning forward, hands on their thighs, gasping for air as they prepared to take free kicks.

The midfield, usually a daunting obstacle course in the modern game, looked like a quick-transition area to the next strike. But though Klose brought Germany back with his goal in the 71st minute, he could not convert on another chance to give his team the lead down the stretch, misfiring on a shot just inside the box that sailed left.

Still, on balance, it was a day for great goal scorers to affirm their greatness by delivering when their teams needed them most. First came Lionel Messi's curling left-footed shot in stoppage time for Argentina. Then came Klose's right-footed stab for Germany.

The goal was his 70th for his country, and it also made him the third man from any country to score in four World Cups. He celebrated in customary fashion: sprinting toward the sideline and flipping forward. But once in the air, it became clear that he was not going to land in the customary fashion.

Wearing the wide-eyed expression of an intermediate skier caught on an expert run, he eventually landed on his bottom. But at least thanks to him, Germany is still on top of its group with the Americans set to challenge that position Sunday.

© 2014 New York Times News Service

Topics : Miroslav Klose Germany Ghana FIFA World Cup 2014 Football
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