The World Cup has graced a plethora of remarkable strikers since its creation in 1930, from every corner of the globe. Some of these strikers went on to lift the trophy, such as the iconic Pelé. Others, such as Cameroon’s Roger Milla, never even advanced as far as the semi finals, yet still managed to stamp their authority in the limited games that they played. Gerd Müller held the title of all time top goal scorer for 32 years, finally being usurped by Ronaldo, who himself possessed the record for World Cup top goal scorer for eight years. This record was beaten in the Brazilian city of Belo Horizonte by German poacher Miroslav Klose in the 7-1 demolition of Brazil in 2014.
It is Mr Klose that this article revolves around. Born in Poland, few could have foreseen the epic rise to stardom that Klose endured. He didn’t move to Germany until he was eight years old, at which point he could allegedly speak only two words of German – “ja” and “danke” – yes, and thanks. You could have been excused for thinking that the two words were shoot and score, however!
Klose’s stock rose during his time with FC Kaiserslautern. His first couple seasons were fairly mediocre, as is so often the way with a young striker. In 2001/02, however, something happened. Miroslav scored. Then he scored again. And again, and again, not stopping until he had the attention of German national team coach Rudi Völler. It was in 2001 that Klose got his international debut, and it was with Kaiserslautern that he was called up to the Korea/Japan World Cup in 2002.
Over the next decade and a half Klose went on to play for Werden Bremen, Bayern Munich and Serie A outfit Lazio. He became a regular in the Germany side under managers Rudi Völler, Jürgen Klinsmann and Joachim Löw. He has played at every major international tournament available to him since his debut, scoring in all but Euro 2004, where he was a bit part player as a result of a knee injury.
Miroslav Klose may not be a scorer of the sublime goals, the majority of his strikes coming from inside the box. He was capable of finishing with either his left foot, his right foot, or his head. It was this triple threat which made him such a nightmare for defenders, and which helped earn his World Cup legacy. I could tell you in more detail of his career, highlighting his club accolades, noting his admirable Fifa Fair Play awards and such like, but I am not going to do that. Instead, I am going to recount his goals, all sixteen of them, in detail. Regardless of the level of opposition, Klose was capable of finishing coolly in high pressure situations in the biggest competition in the world, so without further ado, it’s time to immerse yourself in the goals of a true finisher.
Germany 8-0 Saudi Arabia (1-0) Korea/Japan 2002
Miroslav Klose’s first World Cup goal was in fact the first of a hat trick that he scored against a woeful Saudi Arabian team in Sapporo. Michael Ballack received the football on the left side, near the oppositions corner flag. He cut back and crossed the ball into the box and a dangerously hard to defend height. The ball floated close to Carsten Jancker, who attempted the most bizarre of bicycle kicks. He totally missed the ball, although this did cause confusion amongst the Saudi defence. The ball bounced close to a young Miroslav Klose, who evaded Hussein Sulimani’s marking and leapt awkwardly to throw himself at the ball. He powered his header into the ground and over the goalkeeper to give Germany a one nil lead. The opener was only twenty minutes in and opened the floodgates for Die Mannschaft.
Germany 8-0 Saudi Arabia (2-0) Korea/Japan 2002
It can be debated whether Klose’s first World Cup goal was scored through luck or skill, but his second was pure striking prowess. Again, Ballack received the ball down the left flank, easily coasted past Abdullah Al-Waked and crossed the ball high towards the penalty spot. Klose climbed high in the air, over centre back Abdullah Zubromawi and bulleted his header into the bottom right corner. Klose sped off in celebration, elated at scoring his second just five minutes after his first, and unleashed his trademark celebration; a run followed by a forward summersault. Magnificent.
Germany 8-0 Saudi Arabia (5-0) Korea/Japan 2002
Klose’s hat trick made it 5-0 to his adopted nation, this being his third header of his World Cup goal haul, 70 minutes in. Bernd Schneider whipped in the cross after carrying the ball down the right flank, towards the by-line. Miroslav found space between both centre halves and jumped to meet the ball. This was the easiest of the three goals, though it would probably have been saved by a better keeper, or certainly a keeper who wasn’t as demoralised as Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed Al-Deayea. The ball fizzed off Klose’s head and landed right in front of the goalkeeper, before bouncing up and into the back of the net. For someone who had been in the national team for less than a year, this hat trick was one way to become a fan favourite!
Germany 1-1 Republic of Ireland (1-0) Korea/Japan 2002
Michael Ballack turned provider to Miroslav Klose’s fourth goal of the World Cup after nineteen minutes in the Kashima Soccer Stadium. From over 40 yards out, Ballack lobbed the ball over the Irish midfield and defence. Klose outpaced Ian Harte, who at the time turned out for Leeds United. The forward met the ball with precision timing, his head touching the ball around the penalty spot. He thumped it towards goal, the football bouncing just in front of Shay Given and then under the Irishman, much to the dismay of the well travelled green army. Ireland rescued a point courtesy of a late Robbie Keane goal, and the defence did well to keep Keane at bay for the remainder of the match.
Cameroon 0-2 Germany (0-2) Korea/Japan 2002
Klose scored his fifth goal of Korea/Japan against their African opponents late on in the second half, his goal being his fifth header of the tournament. This was a must win game for both sides, each sitting on four points. It was a fiercely contested match which saw sixteen yellow cards (and two reds), though very few of them appeared to be worthy of the booking. Through the refereeing display, there was some football played. Michael Ballack once again assisted Klose, collecting a pass on the right corner of the box and crossing in to Klose to head beyond Alioum Boukar. There were calls of offside from the Cameroonian players, though replays showed he was fractionally on. This was the last goal Klose scored in the 2002 World Cup as Germany wound up being beaten finalists against Brazil.
Germany 4-2 Costa Rica (2-1) Germany 2006
At his second World Cup, this time on home soil, it took Klose just seventeen minutes to reopen his account. Not only did he score, but he scored with his feet, his left foot, to be precise. Bernd Schneider held possession of the ball on the right flank near the by-line, fizzing a low pass back to a young Bastian Schweinsteiger. Basti hit a fake shot, splitting the defence before driving further into the box. The then-winger hit a low pass towards the back post which was met by the left foot of Klose, unmarked, into an empty net.
Germany 4-2 Costa Rica (3-1) Germany 2006
Klose got Germany’s third of the day and his second just after the hour mark, using his right foot to notch his seventh
World Cup goal. The two-footed full back Philipp Lahm put the ball into the box, crossing from the left side. His cross took a deflection off the head of a Costa Rican defender, taking the sting out of the ball. It floated to the back post where Miroslav Klose threw his body at the ball. His header was initially saved my José Porras in the Costa Rican goal. Porras could only parry the ball back into the six yard box, causing a battle between Klose and centre back and captain of Costa Rica, Luis Marín. Marín was close to hooking the ball to safety, but was also very near to conceding a penalty. The reaction time of Klose was commendable and he managed to stab the ball into the back of the net.
Ecuador 0-3 Germany (0-1) Germany 2006
It took Miroslav only four minutes to get the opener against Germany’s South American opponents. A ball into the box from a Bernd Schneider free kick caused chaos with Ecuador unable to sufficiently clear their lines. Per Mertesacker hooked the ball across the six yard box, over everybody and nearly out of play. The pass, if it was a pass, was recovered by Bastian Schweinsteiger, who sprinted to retain possession and knock a first time pass back to Klose. Klose hit the pass first time into the overly exposed left side of the goal to put Germany one up in their final group match.
Ecuador 0-3 Germany (0-2) Germany 2006
Klose made it 2-0 to the Germans on the day, and it was a combination of sublime team work mixed with catastrophic defending which got the poacher his goal. Bastian Schweinsteiger and Torsten Frings combined to dispossess the Ecuadorian midfield. Schweinsteiger passed to Ballack, with the soon-to-be Chelsea midfielder rekindling his 2002 love affair with Miroslav Klose by assisting him for a goal. The ball fell neatly between centre half Giovanny Espinoza and the goalkeeper, Cristian Mora. Despite an arm on the back from Espinoza, Klose managed to nudge the ball round Mora and slot into the empty net in a move which sealed first place for Germany in Group A.
Germany 1-1 Argentina (1-1) Germany 2006
After going a goal down to Roberto Ayala at the beginning of the second half, Miroslav Klose managed to equalise with a bullet header with ten minutes to go of regulation time. Michael Ballack whipped in a fast cross towards the edge of the penalty box. This was met by Tim Borowski who flicked his header over the defenders and into the path of the Polish born striker. Klose stayed ahead of Juan Pablo Sorín and low beyond the outstretched arms of champion Scrabble surname Roberto Abbondanzieri. Argentina played some stunning football in that World Cup but were undone by a penalty shoot out, which resulted in a mass brawl in the middle of the field upon completion. This was Klose’s last goal of World Cup 2006, with Germany making it all the way to the semi finals, where Italy defeated them in a thrilling extra time period. This also marked Klose’s tenth World Cup goal.
Germany 4-0 Australia (2-0) South Africa 2010
Germany opened his World Cup 2010 account with a trademark header, outpacing the defender to reach the ball first. Philipp Lahm received the ball from a Thomas Müller throw-in on the right side of the pitch, 40 yards from goal. Klose started his run on the edge of the D, sprinting to the penalty spot. The ball was placed expertly between Lucas Neill and Mark Schwarzer, with neither able to deal with the ball. Klose actually turned away from the ball in fear of being punched in the head by Schwarzer, but the ball struck the striker on the head and dropped into the net.
Germany 4-1 England (1-0) South Africa 2010
It may be hard to imagine this, England fans, but this game in Bloemfontein actually involved more than just Frank Lampard’s ghost goal. The bulk of Klose’s World Cup goals have been finishing pinpoint crosses into the box, throwing his body on the line. His goal against England, however, was football at its most basic. Manuel Neuer launched the ball from a goal kick. Matthew Upson was positioned perfectly to simply knock the ball to safety, be it back to his keeper or out of play. Klose managed to outpace Upson, then outmuscled him, Klose’s small frame keeping 6″1 West Ham man at bay. He judged the bounce of the ball expertly, sticking his right foot out to stab the ball beyond the outrushing David James to set the ball rolling on an emphatic win for the Germans.
Argentina 0-4 Germany (0-2) South Africa 2010
After brushing aside England with ease, Germany then faced Diego Maradona’s Argentina. Maradona was a tremendous player, but a woeful coach, his side torn apart by Joachim Löw’s German side. After Thomas Müller opened the scoring early on, Klose got the second after 68 minutes. Germany robbed the Argentines of possession just outside of their own box, the ball falling to Lukas Podolski. Argentina were outnumbered at the back, with only Nicolás Burdisso in a position to defend the onslaught. Podolski slid the pass into the gap between defence and goalkeeper, with Klose easily tapping it into the empty net – Sergio Romero being in no mans land after diving to stop the pass. There was more than a hint of offside with this goal, but the linesman’s flag remained by his side.
Argentina 0-4 Germany (0-4) South Africa 2010
Klose marked his 100th international appearance with not one but two goals against the Argentines, booking Germany’s place in the semi finals. Argentina, despite being 0-3 down in the final minute were still pushing forward in great numbers and found themselves hit by wave after wave of counter attack. Bastian Schweinsteiger strode up the field, passing left to a young Mesut Özil, who dinked a perfectly weighted lobbed pass into the middle of the box to Miroslav Klose. The shot evades the slide from Gabriel Heinze and beyond the goalkeeper to finish off the route by the Germans. This was the final goal that Klose scored in the 2010 World Cup, as Germany lost to eventual champions Spain in the semi final.
Germany 2-2 Ghana (2-2) Brazil 2014
Germany’s second group match was disappointing on many fronts, though proved to be the game which saw Miroslav Klose equal Ronaldo’s record of most goals scored in a World Cup. This was meant to be an easy win for Germany, yet it took a 71st minute equaliser by the 36 year old. Germany took the lead on 51 minutes but were pegged back shortly after, before conceding again on minute 63. Klose’s goal resulted from a Toni Kroos corner kick. Benedikt Höwedes, jumping at the front post, flicked his header towards the back post. Klose took advantage of some slack marking by Jonathan Mensah to stab the ball home, hitting the ball before it bounced, ensuring the pace of the ball beat the Ghanaian goalkeeper Fatau Dauda. Age was evidently getting the better of Klose, who fell on his backside upon performing his trademark somersault!
Brazil 1-7 Germany (0-2) Brazil 2014
Miroslav Klose made World Cup history on July 8th, 2014, in a mind boggling 7-1 semi final victory over hosts Brazil. After scoring an early goal, Germany then went on to get four goals in a six minute period, with Klose beginning this quick fire sequence after 23 minutes. Toni Kroos passed the ball into the penalty box to the tournaments form striker, Thomas Müller. Müller played a neat little backheel, causing Marcelo to stumble, with the pass reaching Klose. Klose’s initial shot was blocked by the large frame of Júlio César, but the second attempt was nestled neatly into the bottom corner. This was the last goal that Miroslav Klose would score in the World Cup, and arguably the most important. It demoralised Brazil, allowing the Germans to score seven, and play in the World Cup final with a confidence which would help them cross the line to lift that famed trophy.
This concludes my run down of the sixteen goals that Miroslav Klose has scored over the course of four World Cups. He has played this tournament on four continents, including a successful semi-final run in his adopted nation of Germany. Klose played 24 games during his World Cup tenure, 22 of which were starts with a couple of stints off the bench. He missed one game due to a dodgy red card against Serbia in 2010 and wasn’t selected for their third place playoff game against Uruguay in 2010. He saw his game time severely reduced in 2014 but still did enough to earn himself a place in the World Cup record books. Following the World Cup win in 2014, Klose announced his retirement from the international football, ensuring that his haul would remain at sixteen goals. He is now a member of the national team coaching staff, and will be doing all he can to help former teammate Thomas Müller go on to better his hard earned goal scoring record in Russia this summer. He is a perfect example of a striker who adapted his style to stay relevant, relying on his speed to get ahead of the defence to header home in his early days – all five of his 2002 World Cup goals coming off the head. As he got older, he learned the art of positional awareness, relying on being in the right place at the right time to bang in the goals. He is a World Cup hero who will go down in history as one of the greatest to have played the game.