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Wednesday, 5 June, 2002, 19:14 GMT 20:14 UK

Klose fit for Golden Boot

By David Walmsley
BBC Sport Online

When the World Cup kicked off, the short-priced favourites for the title of tournament top scorer were the familiar names of Vieri, Batistuta, Ronaldo and Raul.

At the southern end of the odds-sheet, if he figured at all, was a 23-year-old German former carpenter with a handful of international starts behind him.

But towards the end of the competition's first week, it was the unheralded Miroslav Klose who was out on his own at the head of the field.

Klose followed up his hat-trick against Saudi Arabia with another goal in Germany's 1-1 draw with Ireland on Wednesday.

But winning the golden boot would be a huge irony in itself as all five of his goals have been headers.

Perhaps Fifa should start getting ready to gild a German cap instead.

In every tournament since Argentina '78, six goals have been enough to win the Golden Boot.

Klose is still some way short of the 10 Gerd Muller struck in Mexico in 1970 to become the only German to land the title.

But the half-dozen that would make him a live contender to follow 'Der Bomber' into the record books is already tantalisingly close.

Despite being a late starter in the game, Klose has done everything in a hurry since turning professional little more than two years ago.

He scored 25 goals in his first 62 games for Kaiserslautern and made his international debut in March 2001 after less than a season as a full-time pro.

Typically, he came off the bench to score the winner in a 2-1 defeat of Albania.

The rising star was kept on the leash for almost another year, until a mounting injury list nudged coach Rudi Voeller into handing him a first international start against Israel in February 2002.

A 15-minute hat-trick in front of his home crowd duly followed.

" He gets incredible height in the air, like Uwe Seeler "
Franz Beckenbauer

Klose hit another treble in Germany's final warm-up game, against Austria, to secure his place in the World Cup team.

And his goals against Saudi Arabia and Ireland have now taken his tally to 11 goals in 13 games for his adopted country.

The chances are there will be more to follow.

Klose's aerial power has been likened to that of Oliver Bierhoff while his predatory instincts are reminiscent of Jurgen Klinsmann at his best.

Even Franz Beckenbauer has described his scoring record as "Muller-esque" and compared him to yet another German great.

"He gets incredible height in the air, like Uwe Seeler," Beckenbauer said.

The Saudis will appreciate the comparison more than most, as Klose destroyed them from altitude, scoring with three headers and celebrating with his trademark somersault.

The acrobatics come from the gymnastics training his mother put him through as a youngster.

The pace and athleticism that run through his play come from both sides of his family.

Klose's mother, Barbara, played 82 times for Poland at handball, while his father, Josef, was an outstanding right-winger with Auxerre in France.

The family moved to Germany when Miroslav was nine but he failed to catch the professional scouts' eyes until Kaiserslautern signed him for their amateur team after spotting him playing in the second division.

The rise of a player Voeller considers to have "everything a perfect striker needs" has been at whirlwind pace ever since.

Even Klose sometimes has to pause and pinch himself.

"When I think about it, I say to myself: this is crazy.

"I've achieved so much and yet I'm only 23, so the best years are still to come," he says.

Good news for Germany, but bad news for their opponents - and for Poland coach Jerzy Engel.

Before Klose made his international debut last year, Engel tried - and failed - to persuade him to play for the country of his birth.

As Germany soared in the tournament's opening week, Miroslav Klose was the player the world wanted to learn all about.

As Poland slumped against South Korea, Engel already knew exactly what he was missing.


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