REUTERS - Miroslav Klose will have just turned 36 when the World Cup kicks off in Brazil next year yet there is every sign that, barring injury or a dramatic loss of form, he will be Germany's lone striker in the competition.
The only clue that Klose gave to his age in Friday's World Cup qualifier against Austria came when avoided celebrating Friday's record-equalling goal for Germany with his trademark somersault.
But he still managed to get in front of Emanuel Pogatetz to turn in Thomas Mueller's cross just after the half hour to set Germany on their way to a 3-0 win, pulling him level with Gerd Mueller's total of 68 international goals.
"You know how old I am. It's been a while since I did a somersault, and I prefer it like that," Klose said after the game, his 129th for Germany.
"The goal means an awful lot, but I do not want to put myself on the same level as Gerd."
Loew's faith in Klose is so strong that he often kept the prolific Mario Gomez on the bench and has not even given a chance to Bayer Leverkusen forward Stefan Kiessling, last season's Bundesliga top-scorer with 25 goals.
Kiessling, who many argue is more mobile and versatile than Klose, became so exasperated with the situation that he last month announced he would not play for Germany again while Loew was in charge.
"In this form, Miro is incredibly important for the team," Loew, who habitually fields a lone striker, told the post-match news conference.
"Klose's secrets are his professionalism and his head. His great strength is his determination to keep up this standard and not relax."
Next year's World Cup would be a fourth for Klose, who made his international debut in 2001 after choosing Germany over Poland, where he was born.
Klose, who last season hit five goals in a Serie A game for Lazio against Bologna, has scored 14 goals in World Cup finals, one short of the record held by Brazil forward Ronaldo.
"If he can maintain his physical fitness and train without injuries, Miro is always a player who can produce goals, quality runs and good passing combinations, an extraordinary striker," Loew added.
(Writing by Brian Homewood in Berne; Editing by John O'Brien)
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