Despite an excellent strike rate with the Nationalmannschaft (47 goals in 91 games prior to the Moscow trip) and a reputation for delivering on the big occasion (10 goals in the World Cup finals of 2002 and 2006), the Bayern Munich front man was the last person German sportswriters were expecting to shine in the decisive World Cup eliminator against Russia on the artificial turf of the Luzhniki Stadium.
Goalless in the Bundesliga this season and not sure of an automatic Bayern berth – coach Louis Van Gaal has more often than not preferred Mario Gomez or Croatia’s Ivica Olic at the point of attack – Klose has been a man under severe pressure in recent weeks, with many questioning his right to still feature for Germany.
But cometh the hour, cometh the man and, with Germany needing a result in the shadow of the Kremlin, Klose got ahead of his marker on 34 minutes to bundle home Mesut Ozil’s low, inviting centre. Cue his trademark somersault celebration.
In one clinical sequence, the 31-year-old Klose showed just why Germany are the masters of the qualification process, why they are so impregnable in competitive fixtures far from base. While Russia wasted chance after chance, he made sure he capitalised on his.
Germany boss Joachim Low can only be pleased he did not heed the advice of the anti-Klose lobby. There was a time when the Bundestrainer subscribed to the view that all would-be internationals play regularly for their clubs. Not any longer. Whether Klose starts every week for Bayern or not, Low knows only too well that he cannot do without him. As the team’s top scorer in the World Cup qualifiers and the second-most-capped player in the squad behind skipper Michael Ballack, the Poland-born striker is absolutely irreplaceable.
“At a club like Bayern it is a squad game and I don’t believe they will want to turn their backs on Klose’s qualities,” says Low. “We know what we have in Miro, what he has achieved in the past and what he can continue to do for us.”
Never one for histrionics or to make “play me or lose me” noises, Klose attributes his sluggish club form to a knee ligament injury he suffered last spring. He claims he has yet to return to full fitness, arguing that instead of a pre-season diet of exhibition games, he needed a more strenuous physical-conditioning programme.
“I’m my biggest critic,” he admits. “I realise my performances of late have been bad and I know why. When I’m 100 per cent fit, I have no doubts about making the starting line-up of the national team and Bayern.”