BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil -- The center forward might be an endangered species on Germany's national team these days, but as Miroslav Klose showed in Tuesday's 7-1 demolition of Brazil, it's not extinct just yet. Now, after scoring his 16th career World Cup goal, he has a spot in the record books all by himself.
No doubt, Germany's shocking World Cup semifinal triumph over the hosts owed itself to numerous factors. The displays of Toni Kroos and Sami Khedira were devastating, although the midfield errors committed by the hosts will be part of the autopsy performed on this edition of the Selecao. Brazil also had no answer for the mobility, passing and scoring of Thomas Muller, reminding everyone that at this point in its history, Germany is blessed with a preponderance of playmakers.
Such a development has made Klose, 36, more of a peripheral figure for the Nationalmannschaft these days. His start against Brazil was just his second of the tournament. Yet on a night when he was officially credited with less than 58 minutes of work, it proved to be enough time to inflict his share of the damage. He harassed from the front, at one point forcing Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar to clear a ball straight out of bounds. He also linked up well with his teammates in critical moments, like in the 23rd minute when he put home his own rebound to make the score 2-0.
On a night that saw Germany pummel the hosts, it seemed appropriate that he pushed a Brazilian into second place on the all-time World Cup scoring list, that being Ronaldo.
Of course, you don't set a record like the one Klose just took ownership of without the considerable help of teammates, especially when one considers that every single one of Klose's World Cup goals came from 14 yards or closer. Afterward, Klose made it clear where his focus lies.
"For me definitely [the goal] is very big, but I'm one of the team players and I want to win the World Cup with the team, that's the most important thing," he said in the postmatch mixed zone. "At the moment of the goal, I tried to give another assistance to Muller, but I was blocked for a Brazilian player. So I tried to score for myself and fortunately I was successful."
Given that Germany put seven goals past the beleaguered Cesar, it would be easy to play down the importance of Klose's goal. After all, it's difficult to pin down which tally sucked the most belief out of the hosts. But Germany manager Joachim Low felt that Klose's strike was significant, as it started an avalanche that saw Germany score four times in six minutes.
"After 2-0, you realized that [Brazil] were confused," he said at his postmatch news conference. "And they never [regained] their original organization. ... We realized that they were cracking up."
It was a goal that also showed where Klose's game is at this point in his career. When he first burst on the scene at the 2002 World Cup, he made his mark as an imperious aerial presence. In that tournament, all five of Klose's goals were scored with his head. But over the years, as the legs have started to go a bit, he's relied more on the clever off-the-ball movement that has always been a part of his game. In this instance, he spotted Muller's diagonal run into the box, as well as Kroos' sublime entry pass. He then timed his run perfectly to latch on to Muller's layoff. While Cesar did well to save Klose's initial effort, the German was there to slot home the rebound for his second goal of this World Cup. It marked the first time Klose had scored a World Cup goal in a match that took place beyond the quarterfinals.
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Afterward, Low insisted it was a mark that the entire team could take pride in.
"It really means a lot to all of us," he said. "This is a record that only Muller could one day beat. But it's something really great. It's great for Klose because if you have scored the most goals in history of World Cup it's not just a sensational performance. There's something more. We believe that he really deserves it. At his age he's still playing at highest possible level, and he's still dangerous when it comes to scoring goals."
Low is right to mention Muller, of course. In just his second World Cup, the Bayern Munich attacker already has 10 career goals, the same number that Klose had after his first two tournaments. Longevity is a difficult attribute to predict, however, and who knows how long Muller will be able to be so prolific.
As for Klose, the record is now his, and it's clear he still has something left to give.
Lucas Borges contributed to this report.