Joint favorites Germany begin their Euro 2008 campaign against neighbors Poland today with Polish-born striker Miroslav Klose in the form of his life says German coach Joachim Loew.
Klose, the top scorer at the 2006 World Cup, was born in Oppeln, Poland, and having picked up the Bundesliga title, German Cup and German League Cup last season with Bayern Munich, he wants to translate his success to the European stage.
With 39 goals and 75 caps, Klose will turn 30 tomorrow and is sure to test the Polish defense in the opening Group B game in Klagenfurt, Austria, today.
Having scored five goals at both the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, he is vastly experienced and Loew insists he is in the form of his life.
“Miroslav has left a fantastic impression in training, I have never seen him that fit, that agile and strong,” said Loew at Germany’s Euro 2008 base, with his side one of several teams tipped to win the title in Vienna on June 29. “The way he moves in training, you could see his old dynamic self coming back, running into space and physically speaking he is back to his best.”
While Loew will have a full strength side to choose from — he is expected to play Klose up front alongside Germany’s player of the year last year Mario Gomez — Polish coach Leo Beenhakker has had to reshuffle his team.
Midfielder Jakub Blaszczykowski, who plays for Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund, will miss the entire tournament after aggravating a hamstring injury in training on Thursday.
Beenhakker also lost left-back Grzegorz Bronowicki from his provisional squad last month because of a knee injury and will have to field a makeshift defense in the Germany match.
Both the Polish and German camps insist there is no tension between them, despite efforts in the Polish media to raise the ante.
The match is regarded as one of the most sensitive of the tournament given the history between the two countries.
Polish tabloid Super Express did nothing to help the situation by printing a modified picture of Beenhakker holding the heads of Germany boss Loew and captain Michael Ballack under the headline: “Leo, bring us their heads!”
Both Loew and Beenhakker distanced themselves from the controversy, with Germany especially keen to end their 12-year wait for a European Championship win — both in terms of a title and games as they are winless since beating the Czech Republic in 1996.
History favors Loew’s side, as in the 15 meetings between the teams since 1933, Poland have yet to win, while Germany have won 11 of them, with the other four finishing in draws.
“Slowly, but surely, we are feeding our players information on Poland,” Loew said.
“If we play to our full potential and are physical against Poland, I think we will win,” he said.
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