Muller is the new Klose

 

The Sports Network

(SportsNetwork.com) - Miroslav Klose enters the 2014 World Cup one goal shy of tying the all-time record for most goals in the tournament's history, held by Brazilian great Ronaldo with 15.

It would be fitting for Klose to tie or break Ronaldo's record in Brazil, but the 36-year-old may not get many chances to add to his total.

A veteran of three previous World Cups, Klose has been remarkably consistent, scoring five goals in 2002 and 2006, while he netted four goals in 2010 to move to within touching distance of Ronaldo.

At this point in his career, Klose is no longer an automatic selection in head coach Joachim Low's lineup, and it will take the right set of circumstances for the veteran to have his chance at tying the record.

One of the reasons why Klose will become acclimated with the bench at this tournament is his age, but another is the play of 24-year-old Thomas Muller.

There aren't many questions surrounding this German team, which is considered to be among the favorites to lift the World Cup. One concern for Low ahead of this tournament was his lack of a natural striker, since Klose has now been relegated to part-time duty.

But any fears German fans may have had prior to the tournament have been sufficiently calmed after Muller netted a hat trick in Germany's 4-0 hammering of Portugal on Monday to begin Group G play.

Without Klose, Muller lined up in the middle of a three-man forward line, along with Mesut Ozil and Mario Gotze, and certainly looked a lot like Klose as he caused plenty of problems for the Portuguese defense.

Muller is a bit more versatile than Klose and is better with the ball at his feet, while Klose is a classic hold-up striker who is dangerous in the air.

They may have different styles, but both have proven to be devastatingly effective.

The one characteristic that both men share is an ability to get into good positions inside the penalty area and make the most of quality chances.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi typically score goals filled with panache and flare, which makes them the most recognizable players on the planet, while the goals that Klose, and now Muller, generally score can be characterized as substance over style.

Muller's hat trick on Monday was the first for a German player at the World Cup since Klose's in 2002 against Saudi Arabia, while the two Germans have combined to capture the last two Golden Boots in soccer's biggest event with Klose emerging as the top scorer in 2006 while Muller earned the honor in 2010.

And with the way that Muller has started this tournament, he figures to once again be in the mix for top scorer honors.

The opening goal came from the penalty spot on Monday as Muller easily dispatched his shot from 12 yards past a diving Rui Patricio in the Portugal net.

His second tally came late in the first half and it put Germany up 3-0 as he blocked an attempted clearance and reacted well to fire a quick shot toward goal that Patricio was unable to handle.

The hat trick was then completed 12 minutes from time in typical Muller fashion as he pounced on a rebound from Andre Schurrle's shot to score from close range, illustrating his ability to put himself in the right place at the right time.

The Bayern Munich man is surrounded by plenty of quality playmakers, and the fact that Germany should make another deep run in this competition will aid his cause to add to his incredible tally of World Cup goals at such a young age.

Muller, 24, has already scored eight goals in only seven World Cup appearances, leaving him just six back of Klose. And at this rate, you would expect Muller to have a serious go at Klose's total, whatever it might end up being.

Klose is Germany's all-time leading scorer with 69 goals in 132 appearances. But while he has accomplished a great deal in his international career, he has yet to lift the World Cup.

As Muller continues to pursue Klose's goal totals, he may be able to separate himself from his predecessor by leading Germany to its first World Cup title since 1990, and in the process, help send Klose out in style.

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