x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Goal-hungry Klose opens another door

At 33, the striker is six shy of the German record number of goals as he makes his Italian debut.

Miroslav Klose scored a hat-trick in the Euro 2012 qualifier against Austria this week.
Miroslav Klose scored a hat-trick in the Euro 2012 qualifier against Austria this week.

Italian football has reason to feel pleased with itself as it begins its domestic season. The players' strike is over and Italy on Tuesday became the second nation to officially qualify for the 2012 European Championships, four days after Germany, and an hour and a quarter before Spain.

That efficient progress ought to settle some of the anxieties spread through calcio by the failure of the Azzurri at last year's World Cup.

Yet, such is the disconnect between international, country-versus-country, football and the breathless, two-matches-a-week cycle of the club game, that what happens on a treacherous pitch in the Faroe Islands or in a dark blue shirt in Florence can appear to have little bearing on Serie A.

The headline makers of the Euro 2012 qualification, AC Milan's Antonio Cassano and Inter Milan's Giampaolo Pazzini, who each scored in Italy's 1-0 wins over the Faroes and Slovenia, returned yesterday to the practice pitches of Milanello and Pinetina conscious that, for their clubs, they had a good chance of being handed the colour of training bib which indicated they would not be in the weekend's starting XIs.

Over at Lazio, meanwhile, Miroslav Klose, scorer of the hat-trick that ushered Germany into next summer's finals, wondered about his role when he makes his Serie A debut for his new club, against AC Milan tomorrow night: will it be in the starting line-up, or from the bench?

Klose is one of this summer's star newcomers to Italy's top-flight. That status has been earned chiefly on international fields. Klose is 33, and in his last two seasons with Bayern Munich, he started only 20 Bundesliga matches. He remains essential for his national team, though, last weekend's goals taking his total in a German jersey to 62. That is six shy of Gerd Muller's West German record.

Klose has moved to Lazio to prove his finishing knack is not fading, so that he has the chance to catch Muller. He has the greed for goals that defines successful centre-forwards: He was determined to claim Germany's first goal in the 6-2 win over Austria, even though he only made faint contact with the ball after Mesut Ozil had shot.

Klose will have company - or competition - at Lazio from another new arrival, the much-travelled French international Djibril Cisse. Their first task will be to break down a Milan rearguard that was the most solid in Serie A last season.

The selection headaches for Max Allegri, the Milan coach, for the opening of his defence of the scudetto are most vexing in attack. Robinho is carrying a minor injury, which just may open up a place, alongside Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Alexandre Pato, for Cassano. But Cassano cannot bank on that.

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