Klose wants birthday treat

PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 June, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 09 June, 2006, 12:00am

'More mature' striker looks to beat his 2002 tally

For a birthday party, it's about as big as it can get.

Miroslav Klose turns 28 today, when he will lead Germany's attack in the World Cup opener against Costa Rica in Munich.

The 65,000-seater stadium on the city outskirts is sold out and hundreds of millions around the world will be watching on television.

The game is the first of 64 at the month-long tournament, which ends on July 9 in Berlin.

Klose has become one of coach Jurgen Klinsmann's most important players, and will be key in the attempt to break down Costa Rica's defence and start the tournament with a morale-boosting victory.

'Klose has made very positive strides. He's matured into a leader of this team,' Klinsmann said.

Klose led Germany with five goals when the team reached the 2002 World Cup final. He is coming off his best Bundesliga season, leading the league with 25 goals which helped Werder Bremen to second place.

'The good and successful season was very important, because it has given me a lot of confidence,' Klose said.

'I want to be better than in the last World Cup and score one or two more goals.

'At that time, though, no one knew me. Now, it will be a little bit different. And you don't get so much space at the international level as you do in the Bundesliga.'

Klinsmann was in the team who won the last of Germany's three World Cup titles in 1990, when they started with a 4-1 rout of Yugoslavia.

'Having a good start is extremely important because we are playing in our own country. We'll try to gain the confidence of the fans by playing a good first game,' Klinsmann said. 'The team would obviously start to believe in themselves. It doesn't have to be 4-1 like in 1990. To get the three points is the most important part.'

Klinsmann's biggest problem is the absence of star midfielder and captain Michael Ballack, who has been ruled out of the opening match with a right-calf injury.

When Klinsmann took over two years ago, he rejuvenated the team, introduced a fast-paced, attacking style and made winning the World Cup his goal.

'The fans will see a team going to their limit, giving their best. Mistakes are part of it. But we'll try to reduce the mistakes. We have a group that supports itself, a good chemistry and that's very important,' Klinsmann said.

Germany's last three warm-up games were mixed - they beat lowly Luxembourg 7-0, drew 2-2 with qualifiers Japan, and defeated non-qualifiers Colombia 3-0. Costa Rica lost their last four and they are outsiders against the three-time World Cup champions, who are the top seeds in the group.

But the Ticos, who will have star striker Paulo Wanchope back from injury, believe they can grab a good result.

'We know Germany will come out against us with everything from the very beginning, because the sooner they score, the sooner they will feel calm and assured,' assistant coach Eduardo Mendez said. 'But if they begin to feel impatient, that would work in our favour.'

Costa Rica coach Alexandre Guimaraes will likely use a defensive line-up.

'But that doesn't mean we will be looking for a draw,' Mendez said. 'We know every match in the first round is a virtual final, so if one wants to advance to the following round, one cannot speculate.

'We will go for a victory, but if it doesn't happen and we draw, we won't feel bad.'

Associated Press