Football: Veteran Klose leads by example

Germany forward Timo Werner impressing at the Confederations Cup. He is pushing for a semi-final starting spot against Mexico.
Germany forward Timo Werner impressing at the Confederations Cup. He is pushing for a semi-final starting spot against Mexico.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Record World Cup Finals scorer is passing on all his expertise to Germany's young guns

SOCHI (Russia) • Miroslav Klose, the all-time top scorer at the World Cup Finals, is nurturing Germany's latest crop of forwards - who all hope to emulate his goal-scoring prowess in the famous white shirt.

Die Mannschaft face Mexico today in Sochi in the second semi-final of the Confederations Cup, and Klose, an assistant to Germany coach Joachim Low, has been passing on tips about how to unpick the Mexican defence.

Klose, 39, retired from international duty soon after helping Germany win the 2014 World Cup. He netted in the stunning 7-1 semi-final win over Brazil to claim the record of 16 goals at World Cup Finals.

The German scored 71 goals for his country in 137 appearances and played at four World Cups. He then joined Low's backroom staff last November as a striking coach.

Since his retirement, Low has failed to settle on a permanent replacement, with Mario Gomez, Thomas Muller and Mario Gotze all having stints up front.

"The yardstick is still the absolute best in the world - (Lionel) Messi and (Cristiano) Ronaldo," said Low in setting the bar high for his strikers before his inexperienced squad jetted to Russia.

"Our players must test themselves against those names."

WELL AHEAD OF THE CURVE

He (Werner) has the speed and dynamism to go deep. When I was his age (21), I had just finished my carpentry apprenticeship.

MIROSLAV KLOSE, retired German international forward and current national team striking coach, hailing the potential of RB Leipzig frontman Timo Werner.

Uncovering the next Ronaldo or Messi is a tall order, but Klose is delighted with how Germany's next crop of strikers are seizing their chance in Russia, with Gomez, Muller and Gotze all left out of the squad.

RB Leipzig's Timo Werner netted twice in Sunday's 3-1 win over Cameroon after replacing Lars Stindl, a box-to-box midfielder converted into a striker.

Stindl scored against Australia and Chile in the other group matches.

Hoffenheim striker Sandro Wagner has also played well in Russia and Germany suddenly have an embarrassment of riches up front.

"I think it's good they are putting established guys - Mario Gomez or Thomas Muller - under a bit of pressure," said Klose on his work with Stindl, Werner and Wagner.

"We talk together a lot and in terms of character, they have fulfilled everything that we could imagine of them.

"And you see the talent these players have, in that they can implement so much in such a short time. I think it's fantastic."

After Stindl scored a classic striker's goal in the 1-1 draw with Chile, Klose enthused about the 28-year-old Borussia Monchengladbach captain.

"He's an incredibly clever player who moves well between the playing lines and looks for space," he said.

"He can hold the ball very well and shield it, so the other players can move forward."

Likewise, the 21-year-old Werner, who netted on Sunday with a fine header and a well-taken shot after tireless work in the box against Cameroon, earned Klose's praise.

"He has the speed and dynamism to go deep. When I was his age, I had just finished my carpentry apprenticeship," said Klose with a grin.

However, Klose says Stindl and Werner have a way to go before usurping Gomez, who has scored 30 goals in 70 internationals, from Germany's first-choice side for next year's World Cup in Russia.

"Of course, you can't say they are already at the same level (as Gomez)," added Klose.

"Mario has been consistent over the years, they still have a way to go."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 29, 2017, with the headline 'Veteran Klose leads by example'. Print Edition | Subscribe