Dan Burke·14 November 2022
Dan Burke·14 November 2022
One of the biggest storylines heading into Qatar 2022 centres around Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo and whether either of them can finally get their hands on that elusive World Cup that would cement their status as the greatest player in history.
But even if one of the veteran duo does lift the World Cup this year, they are unlikely to bow out on their respective careers as the World Cup’s greatest goalscorer.
Ronaldo has scored seven times at the tournament so far, while Messi has six goals to his name, but neither of them have ever scored a goal in a World Cup knockout match before.
Miroslav Klose, meanwhile, may not be considered one of the GOATs, but he sure knew where the net was, and his 16 goals at the World Cup is a record that may not be broken for a long, long time.
Klose broke the record and won the World Cup while playing for Germany in 2014, but he was a dual-national who was born in Poland and was therefore eligible to represent either nation at international level.
He admitted in a 2008 interview that choosing Germany over Poland had been a very tough decision and one he might have made differently had Polish officials got to him first.
Instead, his impressive goalscoring form for FC Kaiserslautern in the Bundesliga earned him a Germany call-up in the months leading up to the 2002 World Cup, and the young striker fully justified his selection with five goals at Japan and South Korea, making him the joint-second highest goalscorer at the tournament behind Brazil’s Ronaldo.
Remarkably, all five of Klose’s goals at that tournament were headers, and he became the first (and so far only) player to score five headers at a World Cup. That’s another record that won’t be easy to break.
In 2006, Klose scored another five goals as Germany hosted the tournament on home soil, taking his tally to 10 goals at the tournament and earning him what proved to be his only World Cup Golden Boot.
It was another header to equalise against Argentina in the quarter-final that was his most important goal that year, but he was unable to find the net in the semi-final as Die Mannschaft were beaten by eventual champions Italy.
At the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, Klose was 32 and considered past his peak, but a goal against Australia in Germany’s opening group match put him level with fellow countryman Jürgen Klinsmann on 11 World Cup goals, before a strike against England in the round of 16 saw him draw level with Pelé at fourth on the all-time list.
Two more goals against Argentina in the quarter-final in what was his 100th international appearance meant he equalled the great Gerd Müller’s all-time German World Cup goalscoring record and moved up to joint-third in the overall list.
And so, in 2014, a 36-year-old Klose travelled to Brazil with history in his sights.
The veteran striker had already announced that it would be his final World Cup and the omens were good when a goal against Armenia in Germany’s final pre-tournament friendly saw him break another long-standing Gerd Müller record to become his nation’s record goalscorer.
Two goals were needed to become the World Cup’s greatest ever goalscorer and the first of them came in a 2-2 draw with Ghana. This meant he equalled the record of 15 held by Brazil’s Ronaldo, but equalling the record simply would not do.
And if taking Ronaldo’s record wouldn’t have been painful enough on its own, the fact Klose did it during Germany’s famous 7-1 rout of hosts Brazil was almost cruel.
History was made on that unforgettable night in Belo Horizonte and when Germany went on to beat Argentina in the final that year, Klose finally lifted the World Cup and retired from international football in the most perfect fashion imaginable.
Klose was a pure striker who also scored over 200 goals at club level and is rightly considered a Bayern Munich legend.
But it’s his World Cup goalscoring record that truly marks him out as a legend of the game.
And if you’ll pardon the pun, it could be a long time before anyone else even comes Klose to breaking it.