Germany's first game marks Klose's 34th birthday, but the striker continues to synch well with Germany's youthful approach.Miroslav Klose probably won't allow himself a slice of chocolate cake on his birthday, which falls this Saturday, when Germany plays Portugal on the second matchday of Euro 2012.
"I will be 34 very soon, so I have to do some extra exercises before and after the training sessions," Klose said. "I feel it immediately when I do not do them."
So hold the sweets. Hold the Joachim Low-approved beer or champagne too. As for presents? "Just three points and that we live up to our potential," he said. "That would be enough."
Despite any extra stretches, the soothing ointments rubbed into sore joints, and despite Mario Gomez's 40 goals in all competitions this season, the Lazio man will likely start on his birthday.
There are several reasons for that. The first is that the oldest member on the Germany Euro 2012 roster suits the fresh new Deutschland style.
When Jurgen Klinsmann and Low first took over Die Mannschaft in 2004, they asked players, coaches and administrators three questions:
1. How they wanted Germany to play.
2. How they wanted Germany to be seen to be playing by the rest of the world.
3. How the German public wanted Germany to play.
From those answers, they drafted a high-tempo counterattacking style that has led to consecutive third-placed finishes in the World Cup and second in Euro 2008. (Low took over as head coach once Klinsmann stepped down following the 2006 World Cup.)
"'Classic' Germany – the one defined by square-jawed, stoic demigods like Lothar Matthaus, Berti Vogts, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Michael Ballack, and the downright frightening Oliver Kahn – is dead, and pleasingly so," wrote James Tyler for The Classical. "The spontaneous combustion of the new class . . . seems wholly un-German compared to the controlled explosions of Ballack and Co."
Now, built on the slick passing of Real Madrid's Mesut Ozil and Bayern Munich duo Bastian Schweinsteiger and Toni Kroos, Germany is more fluid than ever. Key to that liquidity in attack is Klose, the lone callback to a previous generation of player.
The six-foot striker scored five goals in the 2002 World Cup – all with his head. Since, Klose has evolved into a nuanced, complete forward. His soft first touch and intuitive layoffs help weave play together and his efficient, snippy runs open lanes.
Mario Gomez is a great poacher but perhaps not a great player. No one this side of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo can compete with Gomez's gaudy stats. While both were with Bayern Munich, Klose sat. But don't expect much chasing back from Gomez. "You have to run after your opponents," Klose said. "That mentality has made me strong."
Klose makes Germany's team stronger overall.
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Another reason for Low's likely decision is that Klose turns up, no matter what, when he slips into the Germany uniform. Like fellow Polish-born attacker Lukas Podolski, wavering club form rarely seems to affect Klose's perpetually positive international turnouts.
In Klose's last two seasons at Bayern, he scored a total of four goals. Still, he kept the starting role for Germany, bloating his international scoring record to 63 goals in 116 games. Germany is unbeaten (36 wins) when Klose scores (40 games total). And the trained carpenter is second behind Brazil's Ronaldo in the all-time World Cup scoring charts.
Gomez, who has never scored in a major international tournament, is more known for fluffing gaping chances. In fact, Low has experimented with using Marco Reus, usually a wide attacker, up front in training, suggesting he might not trust Gomez as backup.
"Mario is a superb striker, but I would not underestimate Reus. He can play an important role at this tournament," Klose said. "Both are working very hard. The coach has a tough choice to make."
Likely, Low will make the same decision German coaches have made for the past decade, to tremendous success, and opt for Klose. New styles, new coaches, new competition – nothing's retired him yet.
"As long as my legs carry me," Klose said, "I will drag my carcass across the field."