"I expect this will be my last World Cup," said Miroslav Klose ahead of his trip to South Africa with Germany four years ago. "You never know for sure what will happen in football, but it isn't very likely I'll be involved in 2014."
Unlikely, maybe. Impossible, no. Klose – 36 on 9 June – has been named as the only out-and-out striker in Joachim Löw's 23-man party for Brazil. The SS Lazio man has been a valued presence in the Germany squad for 13 years now, though his trademark somersault goal celebration has been quietly put out to grass in recent years. "Everyone knows how old I am," he noted. "It's been a long time since I've pulled out the somersault. I think it's better that I let it be."
Acrobatics may be off the menu, but any further celebrations could be hugely significant; with 68 goals in 131 games, Klose shares the national scoring record with Gerd Müller. Moreover, should he register once more at the finals in South America, the former 1. FC Kaiserslautern, SV Werder Bremen and FC Bayern München totem would match former Brazil ace Ronaldo's record of 15 FIFA World Cup finals goals. "Anyone who knows me knows the World Cup goal record is a target of mine," Klose said. "But to be completely honest, it only plays a back-seat role for me as the team is the most important thing. When the team gets going, we play good football and when we do I will get scoring opportunities. Once that happens, it's just a logical conclusion that I might convert one or two."
Klose has scored consistently in three World Cup finals campaigns – five goals in Korea/Japan in 2002, five more in Germany in 2006 and then four in South Africa in 2010 – and he is understandably optimistic as he gears up for a fourth World Cup on a fourth continent. "Preparations have gone well," he said. "Bring on the World Cup." Doubts have been expressed about whether Klose's 35-year-old frame can stand the exertions of another intense final tournament, with injuries having reduced his Serie A tally to just seven in 25 appearances this term, but Klose has no worries. "I've managed it every other time and it will happen this time too," he promised. "I'm training the right way so there's no looking beyond me; assume that I will play."
As to whether this can be the tournament where he finally adds a World Cup winners' medal to his haul, Klose can only hope. "The South American teams have an advantage because they're used to the climate," he said, adding quickly: "There are always five or six teams gunning for the title – and we are one of them."
Perhaps the big question for Klose is if this is really his international swansong. He will be 38 when UEFA EURO 2016 kicks off; 40 during the 2018 World Cup. Klose, though, is not definitively ruling anything out. "I still haven't given a moment's thought to retirement," he emphasised. "Ultimately, it will be down to the manager, but I think this will be my last major tournament." We have heard that one before.
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